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Rivals Finland, Sweden seek gold-medal berth

by Sean McCullen


When: Friday, 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN, TSN)

Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome

What's at stake: The Scandinavian neighbors face off for a spot in the gold-medal game at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Finland got to this point by beating host Russia 3-1 in the quarterfinals Wednesday after finishing Group B play with a 2-0-1 record. Sweden is unbeaten, with goalie Henrik Lundqvist earning two shutout victories. The Swedes advanced to the semifinals with a 5-0 win against Slovenia on Wednesday.

The Finns and Swedes last played in the Olympics in the preliminary round at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, with Sweden winning 3-0. Sweden defeated Finland 3-2 in the gold-medal game at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Finland: After winning bronze at the Vancouver Games, Teemu Selanne and the Finns have their sights set on their country's first gold medal in Olympic men's hockey and perhaps a chance for revenge against the United States, which routed Finland 6-1 in the semifinals four years ago.

But first things first: Finland must beat rival Sweden and the U.S. must top Canada before that rematch could happen.

Finland is confident despite its role as underdog among the four remaining teams, according to Selanne.

"When we came here, nobody believed in us and it doesn't matter," the Anaheim Ducks' 43-year-old right wing, playing in his sixth Olympics, said after the game against Russia. "Our team believes, and I always say the gap is not very big with these top teams. It is a good feeling."

Tuukka Rask likely will be in goal for Finland. The Boston Bruins goalie has started three of four games; he stopped 37 of 38 shots he faced against Russia.

The Finns have outscored their opponents 18-8. Their loss came against Canada, 2-1 in overtime Sunday in what amounted to the Group B championship game.

Finland is without 18-year-old center Aleksander Barkov, who was injured in the preliminary round against Norway.

Sweden: The Swedes have outscored their Sochi opponents 15-5, but the games have been closer than the final scores would indicate. Sweden pulled away from Slovenia with four goals in the third period Wednesday after going to the second intermission clinging to a 1-0 lead.

Who scored in the third is more important than how many they scored. Daniel Sedin scored his first goal in 2014 in the quarterfinal win; he had not scored since Dec. 30, when the Philadelphia Flyers beat his Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in an NHL shootout.

"I lost count," Sedin said about his goal-scoring drought, which spanned 22 games in the NHL and at the Olympics, according to the Detroit Free Press. "It was a good feeling. It's my job to score. It's nice to get it over."

Carl Hagelin of the New York Rangers scored his first two goals of the tournament in the third period.

Lundqvist stopped 19 shots against Slovenia to raise his save percentage to .948.

Sweden is without captain Henrik Zetterberg, who sustained a herniated disk in the preliminary round against the Czech Republic.

Sweden is aiming for its second gold medal in the five Olympics that have included NHL players; it won gold at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics.

What's next: The winner will advance to the gold-medal game scheduled for 7 a.m. ET Sunday. The loser will play for bronze Saturday at 10 a.m. ET.

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