May 4, 2015 / 10:44 AM / 2 years ago

Canada face Czechs in first big championship test

Canada's Sidney Crosby challenges Latvia's Rodrigo Abols and goalkeeper Ervins Mustukovs (L-R) during their Ice Hockey World Championship game at O2 arena in Prague, Czech Republic May 1, 2015.David W Cerny

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Canada face their first big test of the world championships on Monday when the North Americans take on a Czech team hoping an evergreen Jaromir Jagr and home advantage can lead them to victory against the tournament favorites.

The Czechs, who lost to Sweden in their opening game before rebounding with a win against Latvia, will also have to deal with Pittsburgh Penguins centre Sidney Crosby, who is appearing at the tournament for the first time since 2006.

Crosby, who has notched two goals in two games, said the defending Olympic champions were starting to gel and getting more comfortable skating with each other.

"It was good," Crosby said after Canada's 10-0 demolition of Germany on Sunday.

"I thought we were better today than we were last game. So that's the most important thing that you've got to get better with every game. It should happen as the guys get more comfortable with the ice."

The Czechs will once again rely on 43-year-old Florida Panthers forward Jagr, who become the oldest player to score a goal at the world championships when he found the net against Sweden in a 6-5 overtime loss on Friday.

Jagr scored again on Saturday with his power-play goal leading the Czechs to a 4-2 victory against Latvia to give the home team their first win of the tournament.

Czech captain Jakub Voracek, who will come up against Philadelphia Flyers team mate Claude Giroux, said he was satisfied the Czechs had taken four points from their first two games but were wary of a Canada team featuring many threats.

"Their whole team is strong," he told idnes.cz news website. "It is good for the fans that Canada are so much interested in the world championships that their best players are coming. But our team can beat them."

The other game on Monday features old rivals and unbeaten Group B leaders the United States and Russia squaring off in Ostrava.

The Russians and tournament scoring leader Yevgeni Dadonov are coming off a 5-3 win against Slovenia in which the SKA St. Petersburg forward scored two goals and assisted on two others, while the United States labored to a 2-1 victory over Norway.

Reporting by Michael Kahn and Robert Muller; Editing by John O'Brien

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