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Jensen, Denmark know what's in store vs. Canada

by Mike G. Morreale
EDMONTON -- What are the odds Denmark beats Canada in Thursday's preliminary-round matchup in the 2012 World Junior Championship?
A silly question, eh? Still, as ridiculous as the inquiry might be, it's exactly what makes this tournament so intriguing and delightful to watch. On occasion there is an opportunity to applaud the underdog and provide just the encouragement needed in what could be considered a helpless situation.
For the Danish National Junior Team, being placed in Group B with Canada, the U.S., Czech Republic and Finland didn't exactly bring visions of gold medals. Then again, it didn't matter.
"Playing on the Danish national team … we are underdogs in this tournament," alternate captain Nicklas Jensen said. "We are in the defensive zone and have to play there. A lot of the guys in the dressing room are offensive players back home, so obviously we have to change that around and focus more on the small stuff in the defensive zone because that's where most of the game is going to get played.
"It's tough, but it's a good challenge and it will only help us in the future."

"We just want to give the Canadians a really tough game. We're going in to win the game, but realistically, we just want to really compete and work hard against them every shift."
-- Denmark forward Nicklas Jensen

So many times you read about the giants of the WJC, but it's very rare to get the perspective of the little guys in the 10-team field. In the case of Denmark and Latvia, which is winless in Group A -- where it has to contend with Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland -- each club realizes the momentous challenge that playing in the WJC brings.
"Coming in, it was going to be tough no matter what," Jensen said. "We knew we were not going to get anything easy, but I think we've been doing good, competing hard. Obviously we didn't want the big scores against us, but unfortunately that's what happened. "
And what is expected Thursday against Canada, a team that has outscored the opposition 13-1 in two victories?
"We just want to give the Canadians a really tough game," Jensen said. "We're going in to win the game, but realistically, we just want to really compete and work hard against them every shift."
Denmark has lost its opening two games, to the U.S. and the Czech Republic, by a combined score of 18-3.
It's interesting to note that the Canadian fans have adopted Denmark as their second-favorite team, rooting for the players in each of their opening games. Jensen knows that all ends Thursday.
"Everyone likes an underdog," he said. "The other great teams will probably give the Canadians a tough run, so I guess that's why they're cheering for us. We're all very grateful and thankful for the fans on our side. Hopefully there'll be some leftover cheers (on Thursday)."
Jensen, a first-round pick (No. 29) of the Vancouver Canucks at the 2011 NHL Draft, might be Denmark's top player here. In 30 games for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League this season, he has 17 goals and 35 points.
His linemate in Oshawa is Team Canada forward Boone Jenner, a 2011 second-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Jensen and Jenner rank first and second, respectively, in team scoring in Oshawa.
"He switched his game around a little bit (on Team Canada)," Jensen said of Jenner. "He obviously has to change his role to on the Canadian team. Back in Oshawa, he's more a point producer and here he's running around and hitting guys. It's fun to watch … hopefully I can get a hit on him (Thursday)."
Jensen said he and Jenner are best friends in Oshawa and was happy when he got the news that his pal had earned a spot on the ultra-competitive Canadian roster.
"I'm happy for him to make the Canadian team and looking forward to playing against him," Jensen said. "He's one of my best friends so I was hoping he would make it. We've been talking on and off during the tournament … there was a little trash talk, but all in fun. It's going to be tough for us and we knew that, but we'll focus on our game and the system and on our work ethic."
In other words, playing for the love of the game -- and the "Danmark" crest on the front of the jersey.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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