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US face Canada as Sweden play Finns in hockey simifinals

SOCHI, Russia -- If this is it for NHL players at the Olympics, it's a good way to go out.

The United States will face Canada in a 2010 gold-medal game rematch, and rivals Sweden and Finland will meet in the Sochi Games hockey semifinals on Friday.

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association have refused to commit to going to South Korea in 2018, leaving open the possibility that the best hockey players in the world might not play in the Olympics after Sunday's finale.

In the meantime, though, the stage is set potentially for a pair of fantastic games at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

The Americans have easily been the best team on ice so far, scoring the most goals (20) in three routs and a closely contested 3-2 shootout victory over the host Russians.

U.S. coach Dan Bylsma doesn't expect that trend to continue the rest of the way.

“This is a one-game tournament,” he said Wednesday after a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. “And, it usually comes down to a one-goal game.”

Canada's Sidney Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime to beat the Americans four years ago.

Bylsma watched that game from a restaurant in Pittsburgh. Now, the Penguins coach will be behind the U.S. bench hoping Crosby, one of his players in the league, doesn't help the Canadians win two straight Olympic gold medals.

“I don't recall any conversations between Sid and I about the possibility or facing each other,” Bylsma said. “We talked a little bit about the Olympic experience and I know prior to leaving we wished each other luck.”

The Swedes might've been fortunate if they ended up playing the Russians rather than the fired-up Finns.

Top-seeded Sweden won the first of four quarterfinal games on Wednesday, dominating Slovenia 5-0. After the game, Sweden coach Par Marts predicted Russia would beat Finland later in the day. He was wrong — the Finns eliminated Russia with a 3-1 win — and might regret what he said to a room full of reporters.

The remaining teams have had a lot of success since the Nagano Games in 1998, the first with NHL players.

Canada, which barely beat Latvia 2-1 to advance to these semifinals, won gold in 2010 and 2002. The Swedes were the top team at the Turin Games eight years ago. The Americans earned silver twice in the last three Olympics, losing to Canada each time. And, Finland is the only nation with three medals in the Olympic era with the best hockey players in the world.

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Latvia defenseman Kristaps Sotnieks reaches over Latvia goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis to grab the puck and keep it from completely crossing the goal line during the third period of a men's ice hockey game against Canada during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia on Wednesday, Feb. 19. The goal was disallowed and ruled dead. Canada won 2-1. (AP)

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