When Phillips looks down both benches, he sees two teams which arrived at the world championship tournament without a lot of household names on their rosters for various reasons.
There’s no Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg or Nik Lidstrom suiting up for the Tre Kronor, which translates into Three Crowns, which is the nickname of the Swedish national team. Canada is without Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla and Ron Blake, to mention a few players not here in the Austrian Alps.
Canada and Sweden renew their rivalry on Saturday in the opening game of the qualifying round for both teams.
“I guess they are sort of on the same path as ourselves and the Americans, with a lot of younger guys and maybe not as many household names as before,” says Phillips. “But they have guys who are working hard and trying to make a name for themselves and prove to everyone that they belong here.
“Just because you do not recognize the name on the back you can’t take them lightly.”
Canada and Sweden won their respective groups and head into the second phase of the tournament with each side riding a three-game winning streak.
Goaltending is not an issue for either side.
Canada has Marty Brodeur while the Swedes will counter with Henrik Lundqvist, a New York Rangers prospect who prospect who posted a record six shutouts during this year's Swedish playoffs, including three in the best-of-seven final.
Phillips played in Sweden this season and he knows Lundqvist can steal a game for his team.
“He won a championship there in Sweden for them and he is the talk of the country right now,” he said.
Lundqvist was in net last year when Canada rallied from a two-game deficit and beat Sweden 5-3 in the gold medal final of the world tournament in Prague. The Swedes have lost three straight to Canada at the world tournament – twice blowing a two-goal game in the gold medal final - and the last time Sweden beat Canada was in 1999.
Canada has the tournament’s hottest scorer in Rick Nash, who has six goals in three games. The Swedes can counter with Daniel Alfredsson, who set a Swedish Elite League playoff record this spring, scoring 12 goals in Frolunda’s run to the league title.
“He is a great player and he is not right now,” says Phillips about his Ottawa Senators teammate. “I wish this was the NHL playoffs.”
Canada is No. 1 on the IIHF’s rankings and Sweden follows right behind. The Canadians and Swedes faced each other in the final of the last two world tournaments and after Saturday’s game they could meet again in Austria to decide who leaves as world champs and who doesn’t.
Coach Marc Habscheid has scouted the Swedes and knows they are a formidable opponent.
“They are impressive and they are a good team,” says Habscheid. “They move the puck real well and they play a good team game. They have a good skill level. They are playing a real good game now and they are structurally very sound and have a lot of players with talent.”
Team Canada captain Ryan Smyth knows the Swedes will be tough.
“It'll be a high-paced, energetic game with obviously a little emotion from last year and even the previous year," Smyth. "It won't be a rollover by any means.
"Even though (Mats) Sundin, (Niklas) Lidstrom and (Peter) Forsberg aren't here, those guys have helped a lot of these young guys along the way. They'll be prepared."
And so will Canada.
|For more information:|
Lisa Dornan Director, Communications Hockey Canada 403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile) firstname.lastname@example.org
Francis Dupont Manager, Media Relations/Communications Hockey Canada 403-777-4564 email@example.com
|Morgan Bell Coordinator, Media Relations Hockey Canada 403-284-6427 firstname.lastname@example.org||Esther Madziya Coordinator, Media Relations Hockey Canada 403-284-6484 email@example.com|