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U.S. ready for tougher foe in Sweden

by Adam Kimelman

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The U.S. team will see a higher level of competition Thursday when they face Sweden here at Herb Brooks Arena.

The 2012 World Junior Championship gold medalists have six players in Lake Placid from last year's team, and are coming into Thursday's game after a full day away from the rink.

"Sweden has had some really quality practice time," U.S. coach Phil Housley told "You can see it in their breakouts, their transition game. Certainly this is a really good test for us. Just watching them the last couple days, they seem to be in sync. All their passing, they move the puck extremely well. So you can see they've spent time together."

There will be a few changes to the lineup, especially on defense, as Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba and Patrick Sieloff will be on the ice. That trio all stands at least 6-feet tall and around 200 pounds. That's Housley's plan for countering Sweden's size and skill up front.

"They transition so well," Housley said. "It goes back to making the right decisions in the neutral zone. They also shoot the puck a lot. They attack the net well. Our [defensemen] are going to have to pick up guys behind them. We're going to have to contain them, keep them to the outside. They have some big forwards that can control the puck. We're going to have to shore up our [defensive] zone and try to eliminate their chances."

One of the things that won't change for the U.S. is the starting goalie. John Gibson, who allowed one goal on 13 shots in 35 minutes of play Wednesday against Finland, will start Thursday against Sweden. Garret Sparks, who stopped nine of 10 shots in relief of Gibson on Wednesday, will dress as the backup.

"We want to give him work," Housley said of Gibson, one of three players in camp who was on the U.S. World Junior team last year. "He's been there before; it's a big game, so to speak. Sweden is a very good team. We want to give him some work. Gibson and Sparks have played extremely well. Yesterday was a great test for them at key times of the game and they came through it for us. We want to see more of Gibby [Gibson] playing against really stiff competition."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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