Canada will get reacquainted with an old Pal today, but the team isn’t exactly rolling out the red carpet for him.
No, the Canadians plan to make the life of Norwegian goaltender Pal Grotnes downright miserable after he nearly stole a game from them last week at the world hockey championship.
This time, the stakes are much higher — it’s the win-or-go-home quarter-final at the Metro Centre at 4:30 p.m.
“There wasn’t enough traffic, not enough bodies,” Canadian forward Jason Chimera said, of last Thursday’s 2-1 win over Norway in which Grotnes made 50 saves. “We tried to be too cute against him. We didn’t play our style of game.”
The 31-year-old Grotnes, a part-time carpenter when he’s not building walls in his crease, wasn’t talking to media yesterday after Norway’s practice. The team’s goaltending coach imposed the interview ban, Norwegian officials said.
Silent or not, Grotnes will be a key factor today, as Norway — having never made it to the world quarter-finals before — plays perhaps the biggest game in its hockey history.
A stingy defensive trap has been Norway’s key to success.
“They don’t have to make adjustments,” Canadian head coach Ken Hitchcock said. “They played the way they have to play against us. We’re the ones that have to adjust.”
But Hitchcock is confident his players will deliver by driving hard to the net and simplifying the power play.
“We’re built for important games like this,” Hitchcock said.
One of the keys will be a quick start. Canada scored just once in the opening 56 minutes last Thursday.
“Early goals against a team like this are a big thing because they have to start taking more chances,” said Canadian centre Jason Spezza. “It takes them out of their comfort zone.”
Aside from the Canadian game, Grotnes’ numbers — a 3.78 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage — are ordinary. Norway struggled with fatigue after the Canada loss, outscored 13-2 in losses to Latvia and the United States.
But after two days off, Norway is rested and confident. Defenceman Anders Myrvold joked that “Viking blood” gives his team the edge, and said he and his teammates are prepared to “Do like the movie Braveheart — give it our all.”
Expectations aren’t very high for Norway, but they are for Canada — and that tells you where the pressure lies.
“They have to show up,” Myrvold said. “Otherwise, they’re out. It would be a tough couple of weeks for them.”