We're nearing the start of Canada's World Junior quarterfinal match-up with Switzerland. With a Monday date with Team USA on the line, Canada will be getting a much-needed spark this afternoon in the form of Sabres prospect Zack Kassian, who will be returning from his much publicized two-game suspension after a questionable hit against the Czechs.
Switzerland can move the puck well, so Canada is expected to stick to their plan of engaging the opposition physically and pinning their defenseman deep. In a 60-minute contest, I can't think of a better play than a rested Kassian looking to redeem himself to his teammates.
As reported by TSN's Bob McKenzie, Kassian will line up at center between fellow Sabres hopeful Marcus Foligno and Habs prospect Louis Leblanc. Foligno has been a wrecking ball all tournament on the forecheck, while the speedy Leblanc has slashed his way to five points in four games. The even strength move to center implies that coach Dave Cameron clearly wants Kassian near the paint, especially on the power play where he and Brayden Schenn can create all sorts of down-low pressure on Swiss goaltender, Benjamin Conz.
Conz was excellent for Switzerland in the preliminary round, earning a .912 save percentage including a 40-save performance on New Year's Eve against the USA. The 5'10 netminder works well to see the puck, and will likely have to repeat his 50-save performance of a year ago when the Swiss knocked out Russia to advance to the semis.
At the other end, Canada will be starting Niagara IceDogs ace Mark Visentin in place of shaky Olivier Roy. I joked earlier today that another Roy start this afternoon may force Canadian fans to throw waffles at their televisions, but I'm almost wondering if Conz has enough club in the bag to keep that idea fresh.
Enjoy the games.