<
>

Things to know about Canada-Latvia

SOCHI, Russia -- Here are some key things to know heading into Canada's quarterfinal matchup with upstart Latvia.

Price is the man
If it wasn't already obvious after Carey Price got the nod against Finland, the Montreal Canadiens' star goaltender is the man for the rest of the tournament, even if head coach Mike Babcock would only confirm Price as the quarterfinal game's starter.

"I'm excited. I'm grateful for the opportunity," Price said Tuesday after practice, once again sounding Zen-like. The dude is so calm.

What awaits him in the quarters against Latvia will be much the same as Canada saw against Finland, meaning not a lot of shots in a defensive game.

"You've just got to try and stay alert and pay attention to the details," Price said. "In tight-scoring games, that's what it comes down to, making sure that you're aware of any type of situation that may come up."

It's a departure from what he's been used to this season in Montreal, where he's been peppered with shots as the Canadiens have struggled defensively at times. Price hasn't yet seen that kind of volume in Sochi.

"I'm actually just trying to do the same thing I do in Montreal," Price said. "You're not getting as many shots, but whenever they're in the zone, you just try and find that zone that you're in regularly as when you're facing 30, 35 shots.

"For me, personally, it's kind of fun playing behind a real good defensive team like that where everybody's sticks are so well-placed, everybody's always on the right side of the puck. You're just trying to do your job and stay alert. You want to stop that next shot, that's all you think about out there."

Win or lose, Price doesn't sound overwhelmed at all in his first Olympics. No question being the starting goalie for the Canadiens in one of the NHL's most demanding and scrutinized markets has served him well for this assignment here.

"I've learned a lot of things in Montreal that might have taken me longer in other markets," Price said.

Kunitz, Sid reunited
You can imagine Chris Kunitz's reaction Tuesday when he showed up for practice and found out he was back on a line with his Pittsburgh Penguins pal Sidney Crosby.

They were apart for the 2-1 overtime win over Finland, Kunitz ineffective in the first two games with Crosby, but Babcock decided to give him another chance on the top line ahead of Wednesday's quarterfinal game.

"It's exciting. Obviously, I love playing with him," Kunitz said. "I have the tendencies and the chemistries when we play together in the NHL. We still have to go out and execute better, as I said earlier. We have to make sure we go out and produce offensively, but make sure we're working every shift, getting that momentum going forward every time somebody else gets on the ice."

Kunitz has tried to adjust to the international game in his first Olympics.

"I think it's kind of eye-opening the way the game changes with the different spacing in the offensive zone," Kunitz said. "The way it's kind of shrunken and pushed out, you have to do a better job of fighting around your checks. In the NHL, you think you'd get on the right side of your guy and have a lane to the net. Here you have to get past your guy and skate, get to that area. It's so much farther away from the wall. It's an area that we still have to get better at, putting pucks there. We can hang on to the puck, but we've got to beat those five guys when they're all sitting in the house. We still have to put shots there. We have to get past all their players."

Patrice Bergeron completes the line, his second straight game on Crosby's right wing. Crosby, who will have had different sets of wingers for a fourth straight game, has played well in other facets of the game but still is searching for his first goal of the tournament. Clearly, more is expected from No. 87 in terms of offense.

"I think Sid's played great," Kunitz said. "We're trying to play with energy every shift. I think everyone in the world knows who Sid is, and every time they line up against him, they want to play hard on him and make sure he doesn't score. It's one of those things that every time you play against Team Canada, people kind of know who the guys are and the personnel. We learn some of the guys over here as we're playing the games and figure out their tendencies, but I think Sid's played great. Every time we have a chance to capitalize, we have to go out there and execute, and that's something we've got to get better at as a team."

Latvia! Latvia!
Well, well. Babcock was being asked Swiss-related questions earlier Tuesday after Canada's practice when he stopped himself in midsentence and said, "They're playing Latvia tonight, right?"

In other words, don't count out the Latvians.

And he was right. It wasn't a shocking upset, after all, Switzerland beat Latvia 1-0 in the preliminary round, but it was still surprising to see the silver medalists from last year's world championships go down 2-1 to Latvia in their qualifying playoff game Tuesday night.

For Latvia, it was a win for the ages.

"It's pretty historic, first time ever in the quarterfinals of the Olympics," said former Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators winger Kaspars Daugavins. "It's something amazing. Not many people believed we could do it. And we proved a lot of people wrong."

Oh, well, it gets easy now, right? Bring on Team Canada.

"David and Goliath," Latvia head coach Ted Nolan, who is Canadian, said when asked about what his speech will be about before the Canada game. But the Buffalo Sabres coach was also quick to add that anything can happen in this tournament.

But who's kidding whom? Team Canada caught a break here. Instead of a Swiss team that has given Canada issues over the past two Olympics, it will be an underdog Latvian team that will need all kinds of things to go right to win Wednesday night.

"One of the greatest hockey teams ever," Daugavins said of Canada. "It's going to be really tough for us, but we'll try to give them a hard time. You never know, miracles happened before, as long as we earn the miracle. We just have to go out there and enjoy it and work hard, just as we did today. Our goalie might stop every shot, he's good," he said, smiling. "You never know."

Latvia will try to trap Canada, hope for a mistake and try to capitalize on the power play. But playing on back-to-back nights after leaving it all on the ice for an historical win against Switzerland, Canada should be licking its chops.