Finland-United States Preview

BY foxsports • February 26, 2010

For the United States, it's all about patience as it needs two more wins to become Olympic men's hockey champions again.

For Finland, it's all about ... well, finishing.

Looking to reach the gold medal game for the second time in three Olympics, the United States on Friday night faces off against Finland, which hopes to return to the final for another chance at its first championship.

Team USA has six wins and two ties in 11 Olympic games against Finland. No game was bigger, though, than their matchup in 1980 at Lake Placid.

After stunning the world by beating the vaunted Soviet Union, the Americans completed the "Miracle on Ice" with a 4-2 victory for their first gold since 1960. The Finns eliminated the Americans in the quarterfinals four years ago in Turin en route to winning a silver medal.

What these teams have in common in 2010 are stifling defenses with both coming off shutouts. Through four games, the Americans have allowed five goals - one more than Finland.

The winner of this contest will face either Canada, which the Americans already stunned in round-robin play, or first-time semifinalist Slovakia on Sunday. But Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres said Team USA's focus continues to be the game at hand and not what could be coming.

"I don't think we got this far by looking ahead," said Miller, who's stopped 85 of 90 shots for a 1.25 goals-against average. "We've always focused on that one game we needed. This will be a bigger test for our locker room to see if we can keep our heads in the right spot."

Miller turned away 19 shots and Zach Parise scored two third-period goals as the United States advanced Wednesday with a 2-0 win over Switzerland. It was the second time the Americans defeated the Swiss, having posted a 3-1 victory in the Olympic opener.

The Americans have tallied 16 goals in Vancouver compared to 12 by Finland. Parise said not to expect much in the way of scoring in this contest.

"We've really got to be ready to play. It's going to be a tough team, it's going to be a tough game. We have to make sure that we're ready to go. We're expecting another really tight, low-scoring game," he said.

That was what Finland delivered its last time out with a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff made 31 saves and Flames teammate Niklas Hagman broke a scoreless tie by tipping in Janne Niskala's slap shot for a power-play goal with 6:26 to play.

Valtteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings added an empty-netter.

After beating the Americans at Turin, Finland blanked Russia before falling to Nordic rival Sweden 3-2 in the title game. The Finns have won two silver and two bronzes, but are trying to become the seventh nation to sport gold.

"We are probably not the biggest favorites here," said Kiprusoff, who has a 1.33 GAA through three games in British Columbia. "But when you play as a team, everything is possible."

What the Finns have shown is an ability to capitalize on opponents' mistakes. Seven of Finland's goals have come on the power play, with Hagman and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen each scoring two.

"We have a very difficult game against Finland," Miller conceded. "They are very fast, they're very well organized."

Finnish icon Teemu Selanne is prepared for whatever may happen. The 39-year-old Anaheim Ducks star became the all-time leading scorer in the Olympics' modern era during these games, but a loss will all but certainly cap his international career.

"It's not going to be easy," Selanne said. "We want to play our best game that night, and whatever happens, we can live with that."

Finland is expected to have Joni Pitkanen back in the lineup. The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman was suspended one game for delivering a check to the head of Sweden's Patric Hornqvist that resulted in a game misconduct Sunday.


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