Rivalry rekindled: Sweden, Finland will fight for 2011 World Championships gold medal

Surely their rivalry is more intense than the image in my mind’s eye, but whenever I think of the Swedish-Finnish feud, I think of the battle between cats and dogs. Yes, their battles are heated, yet they’re also kind of … cute.

Whether you agree or disagree with that sentiment, each country has entered the inner circle of great hockey nations. The Finns do it with more of a “worker bee” mentality while the Swedes provide greater high-end artistry, but both sides have built up a nice tradition of success in international competition.

With that in mind, it just makes sense that they’ll face each other in the gold medal game of the 2011 World Championships tournament.

The Swedes reached the final round by beating the defending 2010 champion Czech Republic by a score of 5-2 while Finland blanked Alex Ovechkin* and the powerful Russians 3-0. Russia and the Czech Republic will duke it out for the bronze.

Patrik Berglund scored twice while Mikael Backlund, Jimmie Ericsson and Marcus Kruger provided one goal each for Sweden, with Patrik Elias scoring the two Czech goals. Viktor Fasth stopped 35 out of 37 shots for the win while Ondrej Pavelec made 43 saves in defeat.

Mikael Granlund scored what might be the goal of the year with his lacrosse-style scoop while Jani Lajunen and Jarkko Immonen also connected for Finland. Petri Vehanen earned a 30-save shutout while Konstantin Barulin went 26 for 29 in the loss.

We’ll keep you up to date as the hockey world’s other big tournament comes to a close.

* – It doesn’t look like Ovechkin did any extra damage to an injured knee that made me think he should sit out the tournament, but he went without a point in his four games. So, quite literally, his presence was rather pointless.

Personal reasons: No Ovechkin for Caps tonight

Alex Ovechkin
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Alex Ovechkin won’t play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of personal reasons, the team confirmed.

He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.

Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).

That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out

This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:

No, the Capitals have not shared details regarding what his “personal reasons” might be, by the way.

Bruins put Morrow on IR, bring up Cross

Brady Skjei, Joe Morrow
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Lower-level defense is not the biggest of many worries for the Boston Bruins, yet it might be another in a series of headaches.

CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty points out that Joe Morrow has been placed on IR while AHL stalwart Tommy Cross was called up.

With a -3 rating and negligible offensive impact so far, few will really be missing Morrow (pictured). From the way Haggerty describes Cross, it’s a pretty cool story if he gets into the lineup:

Cross was named captain of the Providence Bruins this season, and actually had a strong training camp as the hard-hitting, tough stay-at-home defenseman he’s developed into during his five years in the B’s minor league system. The 2007 second round pick was a highly regarded potential puck-moving defenseman when he was drafted prior to his Boston College career, but a series of knee injuries negated some of his speed and puck-moving capabilities.

Granted, the Bruins would prefer a sure-thing improvement over a feel-good story right now, as this 0-3-0 start marks their worst beginning in some time.

Injuries have been an issue in general, too, with Zdeno Chara‘s slow start mixed with Dennis Seidenberg on the mend and Brad Marchand in limbo.

The Bruins’ next game comes against the Avalanche in Colorado. Maybe they’ll start to mend things on the ice?