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Dreger: Sweden's Lander says U.S. is strongest, not Canada

Darren Dreger
12/17/2010 2:48:07 PM
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Sweden will play Canada in a World Junior Hockey Championship pre-tournament game December 21st on TSN.

It's an exhibition game Sweden will use to gauge where it stands among the tournament's powerhouse teams. However, according to 19-year-old Swedish centre Anton Lander, Team USA is viewed by Sweden as its toughest competition.

Bulletin board stuff for sure for Team Canada.

Lander, a second-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers, is no stranger to international play, having captained Sweden at the 2009 World Under-18 Championship to a fifth-place finish where he scored two goals and seven assists in six games.

Lander also scored five goals and three assists in helping Sweden win bronze last year at the World Juniors, a bitter-sweet finish for the Swedes who suffered a heartbreaking 5-2 loss to the Americans in the semi-finals.

This year Sweden hopes to avenge that loss.

A visit from one of this countries hockey heroes may help.

Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin met with Sweden's National junior team on Friday in Stockholm, prior to the team's departure for Toronto.
 
Sundin wants to make sure Sweden is prepared for the mental and physical challenges they're about to face at the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship.

Anton Lander said Sundin delivered an inspiring account of his international experiences, including the challenges Sweden faced in its run to Olympic gold in 2006.

Lander says Sundin remains an iconic figure in Sweden, so his visit with the team was highly motivational.

According to Lander, Sundin also provided tactical insight into what team Sweden should expect from their North American counterparts.

"He told us to expect both Canada and the U.S to come out hard for the first five to 10 minutes, that's their style, that's how they'll play," Lander told TSN.ca.

"It was good to hear him talk about the tournament. He reminded us (that) to beat the best we must work hard and practice hard," Lander said.

Lander likes the look of his team which he describes as "very strong defensively", adding the Swedes are going to Buffalo to win the gold medal.

Sweden will first have to get past Canada in a round-robin matchup on New Year's Eve that promises to be highly entertaining.

Darren Dreger

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