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updated: 2/20/2014 8:07 PM

Medal hopes on line in U.S. men's hockey clash

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  • A fan congratulates Team USA after their 5-2 win over the Czech Republic in the men's quarterfinal hockey game in Shayba Arena at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

      A fan congratulates Team USA after their 5-2 win over the Czech Republic in the men's quarterfinal hockey game in Shayba Arena at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
    Associated Press

  • Canada forward Jonathan Toews congratulates Canada goaltender Carey Price after Canada's 2-1 win over Latvia during a men's quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

      Canada forward Jonathan Toews congratulates Canada goaltender Carey Price after Canada's 2-1 win over Latvia during a men's quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
    Associated Press

  • USA forward Patrick Kane pins Slovenia forward Ziga Jeglic against the boards during the 2014 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

      USA forward Patrick Kane pins Slovenia forward Ziga Jeglic against the boards during the 2014 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
    Associated Press

 
 

This is the matchup everyone wanted to see.

Well, maybe Russian President Vladimir Putin couldn't care less now.

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It's the U.S. against Canada in men's hockey with a medal on the line.

The winner of Friday's semifinal game won't win the gold medal, but it gets to play for it Sunday against the winner of the Sweden-Finland semifinal.

"I think we were destined and on a crash course for each other," U.S. center David Backes said. "It happens to be in the semifinals instead of the finals, like Vancouver. I think both teams will be very excited to play each other and will need no motivation."

Canada will be without John Taveras because of knee injury. The Islanders center is expected to miss the rest of the season.

Canada also will need a better effort from Sidney Crosby than in the first four games. Crosby has only 2 assists so far in the tournament.

So is Crosby pressing or happy that he's getting his chances?

"Probably a little bit of both," Crosby said. "You can't really do much except focus on putting them in. I don't think I'm second-guessing anything. I'm playing and reacting and trusting it will go in and sometimes it feels like it is not going in very easy. But usually it just takes one and they all go in.

"We like the fact that we're getting a lot of chances in and around the net. We trust they're going to go in a little bit more if we keep getting those. I think we just try to stay the course and make sure that we focus on burying those."

Canada is confident even though some at home have started to doubt the team. The Canadians had a close call on the quarterfinals, beating Latvia 2-1 on a late goal by Shea Weber.

"We're confident here," Canada defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We don't care what other people say. We're winning games; that's all that matters. It doesn't matter how we win them. We obviously want to put more pucks in the net, and we're looking forward to doing that tomorrow.

"I think a lot of people are counting us out, too, which we're really going to thrive under that. If anyone wants to count us out, we're going to use that as motivation. We're hungry."

Doughty also wants to beat Los Angeles Kings teammates Jonathan Quick and Dustin Brown.

"You want those bragging rights," Doughty said. "For the rest of the season; for the rest of your life, really. I'm really close with both those guys, but I want to beat them so badly."

Doughty and fellow defenseman Weber have combined for 7 goals. Canada's forwards have scored only 6 as a group.

Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron and Patrick Marleau are still searching for their first goals.

This will also be for bragging rights among the Hawks with Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith playing for Canada and Patrick Kane for the Americans.

"It's what it's all about, Canada-USA," Toews said. "It's become even a bigger rivalry than Canada-Russia. There's a lot of animosity, a lot of feelings like there's something to prove between both teams.

"It's for the chance to go and play for a gold medal. It doesn't get any better than that, playing for your country and going against the United States. There are millions of kids that grow up dreaming of this situation. We have a chance of making a dream come true."

Meanwhile, Russia's unexpected ouster at the hands of the Finns on Wednesday was still a hot topic Thursday. Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was taking a pounding in the media for his lack of game preparation and for favoring Kontinental Hockey League players over his NHL stars.

The newspaper Sport-Express called it a fiasco. "There is no greater shame in the history of our ice," the paper said.

The truth is the Russians didn't have the depth on defense to compete in a tournament of this caliber. Many of its top forwards didn't score either as Alex Ovechkin had just 1 goal in four games.

•Follow Tim's Blackhawks and hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone.

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