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Reasons for Optimism

Team Finland hoping slower pace leads to success

Presence of Victor Hedman, perhaps Henrik Lundqvist provides boost for Team Sweden

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Team Finland will look to keep its World Cup of Hockey 2016 hopes alive against rival Team Sweden in preliminary-round play. The two teams meet at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday (3 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports).

Team Finland was dominated by Team North America on Sunday, outshot 43-25 and outchanced 87-40 in a 4-1 loss. Team Sweden held on to defeat Team Russia 2-1 on Sunday.

Here are the reasons for optimism for Team Finland and Team Sweden:

1. Finland change in net? Tuukka Rask could see his first action of the preliminary round. He allowed five goals on 28 shots in a 6-3 loss to Team Sweden last week in a pretournament game. Pekka Rinne, who allowed four goals on 43 shots Sunday.

"We have to think about it," Team Finland coach Lauri Marjamki said. "Yesterday was not so good, but I think that Rinne was our best player. We'll have to think about who is in tomorrow."

2. Slowing the game down: The good news for Finland is that as fast as Team Sweden may be, it won't be nearly as fast as Team North America, comprised of 23-and-under players. Don't expect Team Finland to be outchanced 2:1 or outshot by 20. It also knows what to expect from its biggest and oldest international rival, plus the two teams played two pretournament games, with each winning once, so a much closer game is expected.

3. Return of the King? Henrik Lundqvist, who missed the first preliminary-round game because of the flu, was back on the ice Monday and appears likely to start in goal for Team Sweden. Jacob Markstrom filled in admirably against Team Russia, making 27 saves and was 33 seconds away from a shutout before allowing an extra attacker goal to Alex Ovechkin, but Lundqvist has the pedigree. He helped Team Sweden win the gold medal at the 2006 Torino Olympics and silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and it should only be more confident with the No. 1 goalie in net.

"We went really hard in practice and we'll see how I feel in the afternoon and in the end it's up to the coaches to decide who is going to play," Lundqvist said after practice Monday.

4. Victor-y: Team Sweden was 1-for-3 on the power play (scoring on their only shot) and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill Sunday, a big reason why it won the game, only allowing an extra-attacker goal late in the third period. They blocked 12 shots, including one from defenseman Victor Hedman who led the team in ice time (22:54) and shorthanded ice time (2:03).

"I think Hedman is a horse; you saw it today," Team Sweden coach Rickard Gronborg said Monday. "He played all kinds of different situations, and now I know why he's so highly regarded. I knew that before, but now he's proven to everyone back at home in Sweden that this is how good he is. It was nice for me to see Victor have that kind of a game." 

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