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Plenty of familiarity between Canadians and Swiss ahead of quarter-final

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Start with Paul DiPietro of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., who scored both Swiss goals in that 2-0 upset win in Turin, or look to Winnipeg-born coach Ralph Krueger, who has helped turn around the national program in Switzerland.

Neither had to go into hiding last summer when they returned to Canada. DiPietro didn't find himself down any friends during a visit to Montreal and there was no damage to Krueger's summer home in Kenora, Ont.

"Canadians are great that way - they love underdogs and they love upsets," Krueger said after Switzerland's practice on Tuesday. "Even if it beats their own. I felt nothing but a positive respect when I got back to the lake.

"I thought my boats would be sunk or something . . . but they weren't."

It works in reverse as well.

Canadian coach Andy Murray spent eight years coaching in Switzerland early in his career and has a son, Brady, playing there for Rapperswil-Jona. Forward Rick Nash also won a Swiss League championship with HC Davos during the NHL lockout.

As if that wasn't enough, Canada is currently staying at the luxurious Swissotel in the centre of Moscow.

"We're going to have to check our food tomorrow," joked Murray. "Maybe we'll get you reporters to try it first."

Even that won't be necessary.

By pure coincidence, the hotel is celebrating Canada Week and a chef from the Banff Springs Hotel is preparing the meals. Consider it another example of the good relations between the nations.

Two days before Thursday's quarter-final game between Canada and Switzerland at 8:15 a.m. ET, the mood among the teams was nothing but friendly and respectful.

Murray lauded Krueger and the gains made by his country while the Swiss coach made it sound like his team was about to face a completely unbeatable Canadian squad.

"We need perfection on Thursday, which we aren't demanding from the players," said Krueger. "The best game we've played out of the seven has to be on Thursday and then we have a very slight chance.

"Canada is just an absolute dominant favourite."

Of course, that kind of talk means very little to Canadians like Nash, Shane Doan or Eric Staal, who were all in the Esposizioni Arena during the last Olympics.

Nobody saw that loss coming.

"I think most guys were shocked," said Nash.

Staal was a reserve player and remembers watching the upset happen from the stands. Goalie Martin Gerber, his Carolina Hurricanes teammate at the time, made 49 saves while DiPietro got the big goals.

He knows it could happen again.

"There's a lot of good players that play in Europe, never mind that they don't maybe have long, successful NHL careers," said Staal. "If you don't play well or the way you want to, they can beat you like anybody.

"That's what happened on that occasion."

At least no one will be able to claim that they were caught off-guard if it happens on another.

The captain Doan has already talked to his teammates here at the world championship about the game in Turin.

"You definitely don't forget something like that," said Doan.

Murray is a master of positive thinking and has spun the Olympic loss into a positive scenario. While it certainly gives the Swiss some confidence, he says it also means that Canada is more familiar with the potential danger its opposition possesses.

Montreal Canadiens defenceman Mark Streit will be the only NHLer to play for Switzerland on Thursday unless backup goalie David Aebischer sees some time in net.

Still, the team has repeatedly risen above other mid-range hockey countries.

"What has distinguished the Swiss from the other countries . . . is that the Swiss try to win," said Murray. "They play aggressive. They go after it. They forecheck hard."

Murray was visiting Red Square recently and ran into DiPietro. The two stopped, had a conversation and joked with one another.

The displanted Canadian plans to finish his career off in Switzerland - a country where he'll be forever remembered because of his Olympic heroics.

"We can't pay him enough to bring him back to Canada," Murray said with a good-natured chuckle. "He's making too much money in Zug. These guys make a lot of money."

Of course, the Canadian players don't do bad in that regard either.



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