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Canada vs. Sweden to be a power struggle

If there was one negative for the Canadian junior team to take out of last week's exhibition win over Sweden, it was power-play production.

Team Canada went just 1 for 10 with the man advantage in the 4-1 win over the Swedes last week in Toronto's Air Canada Centre.

As the two teams get set to play for real today in HSBC Arena (4 p.m., NHL Network), it's a problem that's been solved for the red and white.

Canada is 7 of 14 with the man advantage through its first three games, all wins. It's a major reason why the Canadians are in position -- with a win today -- to finish in first place in Group B, which grants them an automatic berth in the tournament semifinals.

"We know that [today] will be a little bit different," said Canadian forward and Buffalo Sabres prospect Marcus Foligno, a member of the second power-play unit. "Sweden is pretty aggressive on the penalty kill. We have to be on pucks faster than they will. Move it around, get them chasing, get them tired. Put a lot of pucks on net."

Sweden, like Canada, enters today's showdown with a perfect 3-0 record, for nine points in Group B. Following his team's 6-3 win Thursday over the Czech Republic at Niagara University's Dwyer Arena, Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg said the biggest way to slow Canada's power play is to not give them one.

"We have to stay on the ice," he said. "That's the first thing we have to focus on, to stay disciplined."

It will be a matchup of strengths today, as the Swedish penalty kill has been equally strong. Sweden has killed off 12 of 14 penalties, opening the tournament a perfect 7 for 7 before allowing a pair of power-play goals (in seven chances) to the Czechs on Thursday.

Brayden Schenn, the tournament's leading scorer with 12 points, has four of those points (two goals, two assists) with the man advantage. Defenseman Ryan Ellis has three power-play assists.

Even though the Canadians went 0 for 3 with the man advantage against Norway on Wednesday, the first of those chances didn't come until they led 7-1. The power play was a scintillating 7 of 11 in the first two games.

"All successful power plays have all the same components," Team Canada coach Dave Cameron said. "Net-front presence, get pucks to the net, a shot from up top and being able to read the pressure from the penalty kill."

One of the players Canada will count on today to do the dirty work in front is Foligno. With Zack Kassian, another Sabres prospect, out because of suspension and Jaden Schwartz's tournament over because of an ankle injury, the Canadians have juggled their power-play lines.

"They've trusted me to work hard there," Foligno said. "When you're counted on to produce points on the offense, especially on the power play, they [the coaching staff] are looking for you to create."

Neither team has struggled much in that department in this tournament. Canada has scored a tournament-high 23 goals in its three games, while Sweden has netted 15. Sweden's power play got off to a slow start, going 0 for 5 in the first two games of the tournament before scoring three times with the man advantage Thursday against the Czechs.

Both teams expect scoring chances to be harder to come by today.

"It was a big learning experience," Foligno said of the teams' exhibition game last week. "Sweden's a fast team and they're a little more structured than some of the European teams we've played against so far. We have to be a littler better in our defensive zone."

Ronnberg was pleased with the way his team started last week, but is looking for a more consistent effort today.

"I think the first period was really good. The first 20 minutes, we were all over them. We were skating, we were hitting, we were winning the loose pucks," he said. "We know we can play those guys. We just have to be consistent."

e-mail: jskurski@buffnews.com