PRAGUE – Canada and Sweden face each other Sunday in the gold medal game of the World Hockey Championships for the second straight year, almost to the day.
Canada beat Sweden 3-2 at the ’03 worlds in Helsinki. And the second to last time they met for the world bragging rights was 1997 and the Canucks won the third game of a best-of-three final 2-1.
The Canadians have stuck with the same line-up from the opening faceoff two weeks ago while the Swedes fortified their line-up on Thursday, adding Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche and Nik Lidstrom of the Detroit Red Wings.
But as far as Daniele Briere is concerned, the Swedes can cherry pick whoever they want from the NHL and it does not bother him.
"It does not change anything. We faced some good players tonight (in a 2-1 win over Slovakia) and we will face some (in the final)," said Briere. "Forsberg and Lidstrom. It is another tough challenge . . but everybody is stepping up and everybody is chipping in and bringing something different for the team."
The Canadians are on a roll and go into the final having played their best hockey of the tournament against the Slovaks.
"The guys have done an unbelievable job of finding a way (to win)," said Mike Babcock. "You just keep plugging away and keep doing what is right. We’ve got good people in there."
Last year, goalie Roberto Luongo stopped 54 shots in the final and he could be just as busy the second time around.
The Swedish offence has Forsberg and Daniel Alfredsson, while Jonas Hoglund has almost a handful of goals in the tournament. Lidstrom likes to jump into the rush from the blueline and Dick Tarnstrom is another defenceman the Canadians have to be weary of.
Then again, the Slovaks could offer more in explosive offensive power than the Swedes and the Canadians beat them 2-1 in Saturday’s semifinals.
The last time Canada won back-to-back world titles was 1958-59 and ironically the ’59 tournament was in Prague.
And since NHLers started coming to Europe to wear Canada’s colors at the world tournament in 1977, Canada has been crowned world champion three times, in 1994, 19.
"It’s a great opportunity," says Team Canada captain Ryan Smyth.