US must beat Canada to avoid elimination at World Cup
TORONTO >> One game into the World Cup of Hockey, the United States is on the verge of elimination.
The U.S. goes into its showdown against Canada on Tuesday night needing a victory to survive and give itself a chance to advance to the semifinals.
A loss in the opener to Team Europe and Europe's overtime victory over the Czech Republic on Monday made this a win-or-go-home game for the Americans.
U.S. players circled the game against Canada as the biggest game of the tournament as soon as the schedule was released. Based on their precarious position, it has become exactly that.
"We were looking forward to this game as a great measuring stick, and the result of not winning the first game is it's also for our lives now," center David Backes said. "We can't hold anything back. This is all the chips on the table for our team, and we need to play desperate."
Coach John Tortorella called it the Americans' "championship game" even before it was clear that they had to win to stay alive. He expects a charged atmosphere at Air Canada Centre, where the U.S is the enemy and is facing a must-win game.
"Playing there, against them, everybody wants us knocked out," Tortorella said Monday. "I can't wait and I think our players can't wait for this game to start. It's going to be a blast."
The U.S. focus has been on Canada, but the host and tournament favorite is focused on itself. Goaltender Carey Price called facing the U.S. "just another game," and Canada is going about its business as usual.
"The most important game you're playing in these tournaments is the one you're playing tomorrow," coach Mike Babcock said.
Canadian players even brushed aside eliminating the U.S. as a source of motivation. Canada just wants to beat everyone.
"I don't think we really look at their situation," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "I think we know the magnitude of the game just because of who we're playing — the rivalry and all that.
"For us, I don't think we should really be concerned. We know how important it is (for the U.S.), but it's important to us to because we've got to win those games to move on."
Canada would clinch a spot in the semifinals for itself and Europe with a win.
Some things to watch when the U.S. faces Canada:
KANE AND ABDELKADER: Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane is expected to play on a line with grinder Justin Abdelkader and center Derek Stepan. Abdelkader isn't a linemate anyone expected to play with Kane, but Tortorella thinks the Detroit Red Wings winger has been strong and needs to play more.
"I need to get in on the forecheck, use my size, use my physicality to create opportunities," Abdelkader said. "Wherever he uses me, wherever he puts me, I'll be ready. I'm not going to change anything with my game."
CONTAINING CROSBY: If the U.S. is going to have any success, it'll have to keep Canada's potent first line of Brad Marchand, Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron from doing too much damage. Checking center Brandon Dubinsky has guarded Crosby many times, but stopping the Canadian captain is a team effort.
PRICE PERFECT: Price hasn't allowed a goal in international competition in 224:19, counting the World Cup opener and the semifinal and final at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. U.S. goaltender Jonathan Quick was brilliant against Canada in Sochi, allowing one goal on a deflection by Jamie Benn, who's injured and not playing in this tournament.
BACK TO BUFF: All signs point to defenseman Dustin Byfuglien and forward Kyle Palmieri being back in the U.S. lineup after being healthy scratches in the loss to Europe. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Byfuglien is a physical force with a big shot on the power play who can make a difference against Canada, which isn't changing anything.
SEEN STAMKOS: Steven Stamkos, motivated by missing Sochi with a broken leg and by playing close to his hometown, looks due to break through after four shots on goal in Canada's opener. "To try and keep a goal scorer like that off the sheet is not easy, especially when he has that many looks," center Ryan Getzlaf said. "As long as we're getting those opportunities, that's the main thing."
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