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WJHC: Canada/Switzerland preview

r While it is not the matchup that most expected, Team Canada will have their hands full on Sunday when they face Switzerland in semifinal action at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
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r It's a game that you can watch live on TSN and TSNHD or catch live streaming of the game on TSN.ca starting at 4:30pm et/1:30pm pt.  The game will also be available as Video-on-Demand following the broadcast.
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r While Canada was expected to reach this point, it has been an absolute Cinderella run for the Swiss who upset the heavily favoured Russians in quarterfinal action thanks to heroics in net by Benjamin Conz who made 50 saves.  While Conz stonewalled the Russians, draft eligible prospect Nino Niederreiter provided the offense, scoring twice to give his draft stock a significant boost.
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r Despite missing their two top defencemen in Anaheim Ducks' prospect Luca Sbisa and team captain Roman Josi, the Swiss smothered the Russian attack and were able to create just enough offense to get the win.
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r The victory marked the first time that Switzerland had ever defeated Russia in tournament history.
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r It will be the Swiss' first return to the semifinals in this tournament since 2002 when they were shut out 4-0 by Canada.  They would go on to finish fourth after losing to Finland in the Bronze medal game.
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r The matchup is a real contrast in terms of pedigree as Canada has captured a tournament record 15 gold medals.  Meanwhile the Swiss have medaled only once, winning the Bronze in 1998.
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r What makes the Swiss run even more remarkable is the fact that they lost their first two games of the tournament including a 6-0 thumping at the hands of Team Canada on December 28th.
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r While Switzerland struggled in the early going, Canada on the other hand breezed through the preliminary round.  Their only challenge thus far being the New Year's Eve thriller against the United States in which Canada rallied to win in a shootout, earning themselves a bye into the semifinals.
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r This will be the eighth time since 1996 that Canada has earned a free pass to the semis.  They have gone on to capture the Gold on six occasions, losing to Russia in 2003 and the United States in 2004.
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r The Canadians will get an added boost by the return of defenceman Calvin de Haan who has been cleared by team doctors after suffering a possible concussion during Canada's victory over Switzerland, causing the New York Islanders prospect to miss two games.
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r "I had a little headache here and there," de Haan told the CANADIAN PRESS.  "The doctors treated it as a concussion but I don't think it was one."
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r His return means that Brandon McMillan can return to his more familiar forward position after skating as a defenceman against the Americans.
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r In addition winger Jordan Caron should be healthy enough to return after suffering the effects of a gastrointestinal virus that forced him to leave the game against Team USA in the first period.
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r If Canada hopes to advance to the Gold medal game they will have to drastically reduce the amount of turnovers.  According to the coaching staff, Canada turned the puck over a remarkable 73 times and the American's were able to take advantage of Canada's uncharacteristically sloppy play, scoring twice while shorthanded after forcing giveaways.
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r While the amount of costly turnovers was the most obvious negative aspect of Canada's game, the most positive aspect was the play of Jordan Eberle who has been absolutely dominant and is leading the tournament in scoring with five goals and five assists in four games.
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r With 10 points thus far in the tournament and 23 points overall, Eberle now sits just behind Jason Allison for third on the all-time list for scoring by a Canadian in the World Junior tournament.  Eric Lindros remains the leader with 31 points.
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r "That's special, but I'm more worried about the six-in-a-row record to be honest," the Edmonton Oilers prospect told the CANADIAN PRESS.
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r Canada will take a big step towards that goal on Sunday.
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