INNSBRUCK, Austria -- Jonathan Hedstrom scored two goals,
helping Sweden beat Nordic archrival Finland 5-1 Wednesday for its
third straight victory at the World Hockey Championship.
Sweden, the runner-up in 2003 and 2004 behind two-time defending
champion Canada, will play the winner between Canada and the United
States on Saturday in the qualification-round opener.
Canada and the United States, both 2-0 in the prelims, meet
Thursday for first place in their group, but American captain Mike Modano might not play because of a sore right arm. The veteran Dallas Stars center was hurt Tuesday when he was cross-checked in a 3-1 victory over Latvia.
Modano sat out practice Wednesday and plans to decide Thursday whether to play against the two-time defending champion.
"It's just a stinger to the arm," Modano said. "It swelled up overnight, but I'm fine. I'll work on it and I should be OK."
Both teams are 2-0 in the preliminaries and their game at Innsbruck will decide first place in Group B. U.S. coach Peter Laviolette hasn't decided whether Rick DiPietro or Ty Conklin will start in goal.
DiPietro played in a 7-0 win over Slovenia while Conklin, 9-1-1 in his last 11 games for the United States, went the distance against Latvia.
Also, Jaromir Jagr had the broken little finger on his left hand fixed with a splint Wednesday in the Czech Republic and was headed back for the championships.
Jagr, a five-time NHL scoring champion and member of the New York Rangers, left the Czech Republic's 2-0 win over Germany on Tuesday after getting hurt on a slash from defenseman Stefan Schauer. It wasn't immediately clear if Jagr would play against Kazakhstan on Thursday.
Finland, missing many of its best players after surprisingly
reaching last year's World Cup final against eventual champion
Canada, took a 1-0 lead on Antti-Jussi Niemi's goal from the point
just 50 seconds in against the Swedes in one of the oldest and
biggest rivalries in international hockey.
But Niklas Kronvall tied the score at 2:17, assisted by twins
Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks.
Then it was all Sweden.
Ronnie Sundin made it 2-1 late in the first period, again
assisted by the Sedin twins.
Hedstrom and Samuel Pahlsson scored in the middle period.
Hedstrom got his second late in the game, assisted by Ottawa
Senators' captain Daniel Alfredsson, who led Frolunda to the
Swedish league title this season during the NHL lockout.
Hedstrom took some heavy hits from the Finns and finished with
his nose and lips bloodied.
"But I'm all right ... no problem," Hedstrom said. "I think
we played really well. We played physical hockey, skated well ...
we were simply better."
In Vienna's Stadthalle, Lubomir Visnovsky had four points, and
Ziggy Palffy and Martin Strbak each scored two goals as Slovakia
whipped host nation Austria 8-1 to clinch first place in their
group on goal difference ahead of Russia.
Earlier, Russia blanked Belarus 2-0 behind goals from Alexander
Kharitonov and Sergei Vyshedkevich to also stay unbeaten.
Bogdan Savenko scored the game-winner for Ukraine with 2:12 left
in Innsbruck, beating Denmark goalie Peter Hirsch from near the
crease after picking up a slap shot from teammate Vasyl Bobrovnikov
that bounced off the backboards.
The win clinched a berth in the second round for Ukraine.
"We came close, but it was not enough," said forward Morten
Green, one of five players on the Danish roster who played in the
Swedish Elite League this season.
Lasse Degn gave Denmark a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal midway
through the second period. Sergi Varlamov tied the game six minutes
Denmark will play in the relegation round with Austria, Slovenia
and a yet-to-be-determined team. The two top teams in the
relegation round will stay in the championship next year, with the
last two teams demoted.
The top three from each group advance to the qualification
Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was used for this report.