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U.S. men's hockey team is 'appropriately paranoid' for playoff game

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Team USA's exhilarating upset of Canada on Sunday might as well be ancient history, so far had the players in red, white and blue put it behind them as they prepared for their Olympic quarterfinal playoff game against Switzerland Wednesday.

Criticism of their performance against Canada from their general manager, Brian Burke, achieved its purpose. The top-seeded Americans say they're thoroughly prepared to face No. 8 Switzerland, which defeated Belarus, 3-2, in a shootout Tuesday behind a strong performance by Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller.

"I think Burkie wants to keep us where we need to be, which is appropriately paranoid," said U.S. goalie Ryan Miller, who has a 1.67 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, leading the U.S. to three preliminary-round wins.

"And we all know what's at stake, and beating Canada wasn't the goal coming here. It was to beat any team in our way."

The U.S. defeated Switzerland, 3-1, last week in the teams' tournament opener. Switzerland later beat Norway and lost to Canada, 3-2, in a shootout.

In that first U.S.-Switzerland game U.S. Ducks winger Bobby Ryan provided one of the goals against his Anaheim teammate. "I certainly won't mind putting another one behind him," Ryan said.

Hiller repelled that thrust as well as he repelled two of Belarus' three shootout attempts.

"I told him I'm going to stop him the next time and he's not going to get any presents like the first game," said Hiller.

For countries like Switzerland, which don't have many NHL-caliber players, an NHL goalie can be a great equalizer. "If he's hot, and I'm fortunate enough to have seen him when he is, he's one of the best in the league," Ryan said.

The U.S. has a decided advantage with its mobile defense. Brian Rafalski (four goals and five points) leads Olympic defensemen in scoring and Ryan Suter is third, with four assists. The Americans also have an edge in speed and muscle.

But in the single-elimination stage, one break or an exceptional effort by Hiller could create a challenge for the Americans.

"We want to play a game like we did against Canada," Hiller said. "It's not going to be 5-5 score. We've got to keep the stakes down.

"The longer the game will go with a tight score, the better for us. At the end they have to win. We can win."

U.S. forward David Backes of the St. Louis Blues said how his team plays matters more than who it plays.

"We've got to play our game. No turnovers in the neutral zone," he said. "We obviously have good goaltending, but we don't need to tire him out or use him too much because he's the backbone of our team, and you saw what he could do for this team against Canada."

Miller, glancing at the Belarus-Switzerland game while he talked to reporters, said his team took Burke's disapproval as "a call to arms."

While there's room for improvement, Miller said, he saw no signs of complacency after the victory over Canada.

"I thought some big positives were that we really did battle. A lot of times when a team comes together and you haven't been through something tight the tendency is to bend, to break, and I thought we answered it," Miller said.

"Every time something went well for Canada we tried our best to answer and it worked out well for us. That's a big positive for us."

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