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U.S.-Canada Showdown Headlines Marquee Matchups on Sunday

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Time and time again in media scrums leading up to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver the Penguins’ Olympians were asked what it would be like if they were go head-to-head during the Games.

On Sunday evening at Hockey Canada Place we get our answer as Brooks Orpik and the Americans take on Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury’s Canadian squad in both teams’ final contest of the preliminary round at 7:45 p.m. on MSNBC.

“I have played against Sid and Geno (Evgeni Malkin) in World Championships before,” Orpik said following the Penguins’ last game before the break on Feb. 14. “I think if anything it is something fun. It’s a fun rivalry with those guys. They are all competitive. At the end of the day, I don’t think our relationship changes much.”

Orpik and his defense partner, Jack Johnson of the Los Angeles Kings, figure to see plenty of action against Crosby’s unit as the Americans’ shutdown D-pairing. Crosby has been flanked by Rick Nash on one side, while Patrice Bergeron, Jarome Iginla and Jonathan Toews have all taken turns skating on the other wing.

Fleury will serve as Canada’s No.3 netminder once again as Martin Brodeur makes his second-consecutive start for the Canadians against the Americans Ryan Miller, whom head coach Ron Wilson says will start every game.

Besides the natural rivalry which exists when these two bordering countries square off, first place in Pool A and the accompanying qualification round bye that comes with it will be on the line.

The Americans enter the contest at the top of the pool’s standings following regulation victories over Switzerland (3-1) on Tuesday and Norway (6-1) on Thursday.

Canada will be looking to avenge a disappointing 3-2 overtime defeat of the Swiss on Thursday. They trail the U.S. by one point as a result of the victory over the Swiss occuring in the extra frame.

Crosby has once again exceeded all lofty expectations hoisted upon him by picking up three assists in Canada’s opening-game win over Norway and then beating Jonas Hiller to the stick side to net the game-deciding goal in the shootout versus the Swiss.

Orpik has yet to officially pick up a point for the Americans, but it was the rebound of his deflected shot which lead to the United States’ opening goal against the Swiss, while a great play by Orpik to step up and separate a Norwegian forward from the puck led directly to what held up as the game-winning goal on Thursday.

First place in Pool B will also be up for grabs on Sunday when Malkin, Sergei Gonchar and the rest of their Russian teammates battle former Penguin Jaromir Jagr and the undefeated Czech Republic at 3 p.m. on NBC.

This will be Russia’s first game since the Slovaks upset them, 2-1 in a shootout, in Thursday night’s late game. Former Penguin Aleksey Morozov scored the only goal for the Russians that night, his second in as many games.

Malkin has picked up two points (1G-1A) in two games while Gonchar is scoreless thus far.

Jagr has been one of the top players in the tournament for the Czechs with a goal and an assist in each of the Czech Republic’s first two games.

Sunday’s late game (11:55 p.m.) between defending champion Sweden and Finland also has huge qualification round implications as the winner receives the top seed in Pool C. Both teams have perfect 2-0 records.

Following Sunday’s contests all 12 teams will be seed Nos. 1-12. The top seed in each of the three pools receive byes into the quarterfinal round along with the highest-ranked No. 2 seed. Each of the remaining eight teams square off in the qualification round on Feb. 23.

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