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World Cup

Notebook: Team Sweden playing to win vs. Team Finland

World Cup pretournament game also to serve as gauge of systems, power play, breakouts

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GOTHENBURG, Sweden -- Team Sweden's attitude as it approaches its first pretournament game illustrates the importance and impact the World Cup of Hockey 2016 has in Scandinavia.

Team Sweden will play Team Finland at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on Thursday (Noon ET; ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports). It's a pretournament game, but it's also a rivalry game. It doesn't officially count, but try telling that to the players.

"It's important for us to win the game," Team Sweden defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "We want to make our fans and our country proud of us."

In regards to details, Team Sweden is most interested in seeing how its systems work, if the power play is clicking and how sharp the defensemen are at breaking out of the zone.

Team Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg also mentioned the importance of faceoffs, which have been a major point of emphasis in practice the past three days, especially since Team Sweden doesn't have a center who won at least 50 percent of his faceoffs last season.

Marcus Kruger won 49.2 percent in 41 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. Nicklas Backstrom won 48.6 percent with the Washington Capitals. Carl Soderberg won 47.1 percent with the Colorado Avalanche. Henrik Sedin won 46.0 percent with the Vancouver Canucks.

"If you look at our faceoff percentage last year for our centermen in the National Hockey League, obviously it's not very good," Gronborg said. "If you want puck possession there's no easier, or should I say better, way to gain possession of the puck than to win the faceoff. So it would be stupid of us not to work on it and emphasize it in our practice."

They'll emphasize it in the game Thursday too, along with breakouts, forechecking and special teams. That's typical for an NHL preseason game. But unlike a typical NHL preseason game, winning won't just be a bonus. It's a priority.

"These are the normal things you look for in preseason games, but it's a little different when you play Finland," left wing Daniel Sedin said. "You want to get the win."

Backlund's quick change of plans -- Forward Mikael Backlund treated his addition to the World Cup roster last week as practice if he were to ever get traded from the Calgary Flames.

Backlund was added as a replacement for injured forward Henrik Zetterberg.

"It's almost like a quick trade because I wasn't expecting it and I had a lot of things to change," Backlund said. "My girlfriend told me it's good practice if I ever get traded because I've never been traded before."

Backlund said he was told in June to be ready in case there was an opening on the World Cup roster. But he never thought it would actually happen.

"I was going to fly home to Calgary with my girlfriend and our dogs, so I had to cancel my flight, change the dogs to her name and get my mom on that flight," he said. "I had to book my parents' flight to Toronto, also my sister and my buddies. Then me and my dad were supposed to go see Manchester City-Manchester United soccer game this weekend to see [Swedish soccer star] Zlatan [Ibrahimovic], so I had to cancel that. There were a few other appointments I had to cancel. I had to clean up the house so my girlfriend didn't have to do too much."

Was it all worth it?

"Of course, yeah," Backlund said. "I was so happy to get the call. I'm very excited."

Backlund is expected to be a healthy scratch against Team Finland on Thursday.

Enroth needs a new look -- Goalie Jhonas Enroth has been representing the Los Angeles Kings during training camp even though he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Aug. 22.

He has worn his Kings goalie equipment and mask this week because he didn't have enough time to get a new mask and pads to represent Team Sweden or the Maple Leafs.

He was added to Team Sweden's roster as a replacement for injured goalie Robin Lehner on Aug. 26, four days after he signed a one-year contract with the Maple Leafs.

"I think my Toronto gear will be in Toronto when we get there [for the World Cup]," Enroth said. "I think I'm getting a Swedish mask that should be in Toronto too."

Enroth knows he won't get much playing time, if any, once the World Cup starts for Team Sweden, against Team Russia at Air Canada Centre on Sept. 18 (3 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports). Henrik Lundqvist likely will be the No. 1 goalie with Jacob Markstrom the No. 2.

However, the opportunity to be part of the national team and potentially play in pretournament games (he'll be the backup to Markstrom on Thursday) is significant to him because of what it could mean when the NHL season begins.

Enroth might have to start the season as Toronto's No. 1 since Frederik Andersen sustained an upper-body injury playing for Denmark in a qualifying game for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics that will keep him out at least 3-4 weeks. The injury also meant Andersen couldn't play for Team Europe in the World Cup.

"I've been training pretty good all summer so I was ready when they called and I felt like it was a good opportunity to get a kick start to the season," Enroth said. "I think I'm in pretty good shape, but training with these guys right before training camp is obviously a really good thing."

He said it -- Gronborg on what Team Sweden has done to prepare to play Team Finland:

"Obviously we feel like that's one of our strengths, a puck possession game, so it'd be silly for us not to work on that and make sure we have that chemistry and understand that part of it. We're also emphasizing a few other things like forecheck and defensive-zone coverage, stuff like that. We'll see how the guys respond to our first game. It's going to be interesting to see it all in a game."

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