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Swedes confident in quarterfinal matchup against surprising Swiss

NHL.com @NHL

Swedish coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson got the opponent he wanted with Switzerland, but not without creating some controversy.

Gustafsson's and medal-favorite Sweden look to eliminate the upstart Switzerland when the teams meet in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

While Sweden should be making headlines for trying to earn its first Olympic medal since 1994, Gustafsson was in the spotlight this week for saying his team should lose its final preliminary-round game against Slovakia so it could face the Swiss rather than the Czech Republic or Canada.

"I said the Swiss, on paper, is the weakest team," Gustafsson reiterated following Tuesday's 3-0 defeat to the Slovaks. "I stand behind that. That's a fact."

The International Ice Hockey Federation was alarmed by Gustafsson's comments, even hiring Kalervo Kummola, chief of the Finnish Hockey Association, to monitor the game against Slovakia in person.

Switzerland's Ivo Ruthemann, who scored with 3 1/2 minutes remaining in a 3-3 tie against winless host Italy on Tuesday, was not thrilled with the Swedish coach's remarks either.

"It's not really nice, but he can say whatever he wants," Ruthemann said. "The last few years we have not beaten the Swedes, so maybe they think it's going to be an easy game again."

The Swedish players, meanwhile, maintained they wanted to win each contest.

"We always play to win games," forward Daniel Sedin said. "If you play for Sweden, you want to win games. It doesn't matter what you're playing for."

Sweden, which played without superstar Peter Forsberg for the first two games, finished third in Group B with a 3-2-0 mark. Its victories over Kazakhstan, Latvia and the United States came by a combined 15-4 margin.

But against stronger opponents Slovakia and Russia, the Swedes were shut out by a combined score of 8-0 and managed just eight goals in the three games Forsberg played in.

Forsberg registered two assists and only two shots on goal in those contests.

Switzerland finished 2-1-2 in the preliminary round, good for second place in Group A. The Swiss victories came in stunning upsets over the Czechs and Canadians, also medal favorites.

But the Swiss also proved to be inconsistent after tying their last two games against Germany and Italy - the two weakest teams in Group A.

Switzerland scored just 10 goals in five games, the fewest among the eight teams in the quarterfinals. The Swiss have only three NHL players on their roster, two of whom are goalies David Aebischer and Martin Gerber, and don't have a scorer in the top 30.

Paul DiPietro, a 35-year-old who last played in the NHL in 1996-97, leads the team with three points, all goals. He provided both scores in the Saturday's 2-0 upset of Canada.

Gerber, who made 49 saves versus the Canadians, believes the field is wide open.

"You can't pick anybody as a favorite right now," he said. "The Finns are playing great, the Slovaks are playing awesome. It's really a tight tournament."

The best Olympic finishes for the Swiss came on home ice in St. Moritz, where they won bronze in 1928 and 1948.

Sweden won the gold medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, but lost in the quarterfinals in 1998 at Nagano and 2002 at Salt Lake.

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