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World Juniors

5 things to watch in final of World Junior Championship

Hayton's status for Canada, Russia's starting goalie among storylines

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

The 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship will end with the championship and consolation games at Ostravar Arena in Ostrava, Czech Republic on Sunday.

Championship game

Canada vs. Russia, 1 p.m. ET; NHLN

Consolation game

Sweden vs. Finland, 9 a.m. ET; NHL


5 Things to watch

1. Canada looking to be more composed

Canada players said they were embarrassed by almost all elements of their 6-0 loss against Russia on Dec. 28, from getting outshot 40-28, physical play that included forward Joseph Veleno (Detroit Red Wings) getting a one-game suspension for a head-butting incident to a controversy involving forward Barrett Hayton (Arizona Coyotes) leaving on his helmet during the post-game playing of the Russia national anthem, which upset some of the Russia players.

"I don't think that was our best game at all," Veleno said. "I think we didn't play within our identity and I think they played really, really well. They're a good hockey team, obviously a lot of credit to them, but we've got a lot better to give."

Canada coach Dale Hunter said there's no revenge factor, and that as bad as the loss was, it's served as a teaching tool.

"We said after that game it's over, got to move on," Hunter said. "It's a teaching point. We've been playing better defense since. That's what it encouraged us to do, play better defense."

Canada has allowed four goals in four games since then, including a 5-0 win against Finland in the semifinals.

2. Who's in goal for Russia?

Russia coach Valeri Bragin has switched goalies three times in six games during the tournament.

That includes replacing top 2020 NHL Draft prospect Yaroslav Askarov with Amir Miftakhov (2020 Draft eligible) 4:25 into the third period against Sweden on Saturday. Askarov allowed four goals on 20 shots; Miftakhov saved all five shots he faced.

Miftakhov likely will be in goal Sunday after his strong finish. He also made 28 saves in the 6-0 win against Canada during the preliminary round.

While Askarov could be a top-10 pick in the 2020 Draft and arrived with more hype, Miftakhov has outplayed him. In four games he has two wins, a 1.29 goals-against average and .946 save percentage. Askarov has two wins, a 2.71 GAA and .876 save percentage in five games.

3. Canada lineup questions

Hayton, Canada's captain and leading scorer with 11 points (five goals, six assists), is questionable for Sunday after appearing to injure his left shoulder falling into the boards early in the third period Saturday. He had two assists in the 5-0 win against Finland.

Coach Dale Hunter had no update on Hayton after the game.

Defenseman Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche) is expected to play Sunday after missing the game Saturday because of an illness that has gone around the team.

In Byram's absence, Jamie Drysdale (2020 Draft eligible) moved up from the seventh defenseman, played 20:28 and scored a goal. Byram has one assist in six games and have averaged 15:55 of ice time.

4. Long history between Canada, Russia

This will be the eighth time Canada and Russia will play in the WJC championship game under the format that was adopted in 1996. 

Russia has four wins to Canada's three, but Canada won their most recent meeting, at the 2015 WJC in Toronto. Canada's Connor McDavid, Max Domi and Sam Reinhart scored in the first half of the second period to give Canada a 5-1 lead but Russia's Ivan Barbashev, Sergei Tolchinski and Nikolay Goldobin scored in a 3:16 span to make it 5-4. Russia outshot Canada 11-4 in the third period but Canada goalie Zachary Fucale stopped all 11 shots.

5. Finland, Sweden trying to go home happy

Finland, which won the 2019 WJC, will go into the consolation game trying for a top-three finish in consecutive tournaments for the first time since doing it four straight times from 2001-04.

Sweden, which led 4-3 in the third period, is hoping to finish in the top three for the second time in six tournaments. It finished sixth at the 2019 WJC after losing 2-0 against Switzerland in the quarterfinals.

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