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Special teams may decide World Juniors semifinal

by Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com

TORONTO -- Russia forward Ivan Barbashev knows staying out the penalty box will be critical when his team takes the ice against Sweden in the semifinal round of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship at Air Canada Centre on Sunday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN-US).

Sweden enters the game first on the power-play with a 50 percent efficiency (12 of 24) and Russia has been the second-most penalized team in the tournament with 75 minutes in penalties (15 minutes per game).

"We have to play like we did against the U.S. where everyone was playing 100 percent and know we have to play with more discipline because if we're going to get some penalties Sweden is good on the power play, so we have to stay away from the penalties," Barbashev (St. Louis Blues) said.

Sweden assistant coach Anders Johansson believes special teams may be the difference.

"We talk a lot about not taking stupid penalties," Johansson said. "In the tournament, we've been fortunate both our penalty kill and power play has been good; our PK is at 100 percent (16-for-16). The one thing we talked about is keep playing the way we do but don't take stupid penalties."

Excelling on the power play is nothing new to Sweden. The country finished with a tournament-high 14 power-play goals on the way to a silver medal-winning finish at the 2014 WJC.

Russia turned the tables on the United States in its 3-2 quarterfinal-round victory Friday at Bell Centre in Montreal. Russia exhibited discipline and gained five power-play opportunities in the first period, resulting in one goal, against a team that had been the least penalized in the tournament at the time. Russia scored two goals with the man advantage on eight chances against the United States and allowed one power-play goal on six opportunities for its opponent.

"I think Sweden's key player is [William] Nylander because he's a top pick in the NHL draft," Barbashev said. "The Sweden power play is really good and they're shooting from the blue line so we'll work on that and try to kill those penalties."

The Swedes have defeated Russia in 10 of the past 11 games at the WJC; the past five all being decided by one goal. Russia last defeated Sweden at the 2011 WJC in Buffalo, a 4-3 semifinal victory on the way to winning a gold medal. Sweden eliminated Russia in the semifinal round last year, 2-1

"Probably everyone will be against Russia on Sunday but it doesn't matter who they cheer for because we play for us," Barbashev said.

Russia coach Valeri Bragin announced that Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers), who has two wins, one loss, a 1.67 goals-against average and .949 save percentage, would get the start against Sweden. Shesterkin made 39 saves in the win against the United States in the quarterfinal round.

Here are the projected lineups:

RUSSIA

Pavel Buchnevich - Ivan Barbashev - Vyacheslav Leschenko

Maxim Mamin - Ivan Fishenko - Vladimir Bryukvin

Vladislav Kamenev - Nikolay Goldobin - Sergey Tolchinsky

Anatoli Golyshev - Alexander Sharov - Alexander Dergachyov

Rushan Rafikov - Alexander Bryntsev

Nikita Cherepanov - Vladislav Gavrikov

Rinat Valiev - Ivan Provorov

Dmitri Yudin - Ziat Paigin

Igor Shesterkin

Ilya Sorokin

SWEDEN

Anton Blidh - Jacob de la Rose - Anton Karlsson

William Nylander - Oskar Lindblom - Axel Holmstrom

Adam Brodecki - Lucas Wallmark - Adrian Kempe

Victor Olofsson - Jens Looke - Christoffer Ehn

Leon Bristedt

Julius Bergman - Robert Hagg

Sebastian Aho - William Lagesson

Robin Norell - Gustav Forsling

Andreas Englund

Linus Soderstrom

Samuel Ward

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