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Team USA and Canada win, will square off on Friday

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

It's too bad it won't be in a Gold Medal game but the United States will face Canada in a semi-final match on Friday. The U.S. defeated the Czech Republic 5-2 and Canada edged Latvia 2-1 to advance.

Team USA has been able to amp up the scoring against every opponent except Team Russia. The U.S. doesn't have to worry about Russia any longer as they lost to Finland 3-1 and are eliminated from the tournament.

Canada hasn't been able to dent the twine at will but they could be ready to explode. The U.S. won't take a back seat and they shouldn't. As long as they continue to play a more north-south game and Jonathan Quick stays stingy Canada will need its best to win.

The U.S. has had contribution from lesser names that have continued to work hard and have made a difference.

One of those players is James van Riemsdyk who has been effective in every game. Versus the Czech Republic, JVR had a goal and recorded four shots.

Another hard working player has been Dustin Brown who led the attack with five shots and a goal. Brown wouldn't have been on the roster if it were my choice but he has played well.

David Backes is always known for tough, gritty play but he has skill as well. Backes notched a goal as did the red hot Phil Kessel. The U.S. captain, Zach Parise also scored a goal on Wednesday.

Patrick Kane picked up an assist on the first U.S. marker. On the game Kane was credited with two shots and finished a +1.

Canada was dominant in their win but Latvia deserves high marks for effort. They battled and were not intimidated by the big names. The shot total was heavily slanted toward Canada 57-16.

In the world of probability more shots equal more chances to score. In the NHL, the team that has outshot their opponents this season has only a 51 percent to 49 percent win rate advantage. What was most important for Canada is Latvia didn't have many quality chances. Carey Price was able to stay alert and he did make a few difficult saves.

Speaking of probability, when Shea Weber or Drew Doughty can tee off from closer range their likelihood to score should increase. The blue line is six feet closer to the net on an Olympic ice surface than on a NHL rink. The blue line being closer to the net hasn't hurt Doughty or Weber.

Team Canada has scored a total of 13 goals with Doughty (4) and

Weber (3) accounting for better than half the scoring. Canada's skillful forwards might be sitting on a big game and could show up on the score sheet versus the U.S., but then again maybe not.

It is almost surreal to think this, but Sidney Crosby has almost looked awkward around the net. He failed to score on a breakaway early in the first period and missed other chances. Crosby was credited with only one shot and is looking for his first goal of the tourney.

Head coach Mike Babcock is another who is difficult to criticize but it appears in some ways he is too concerned about getting Crosby going. The supposed number one line for Canada is almost in a constant state of flux as Babcock tries different combinations.

Patrick Sharp notched his first goal of the tourney and Jonathan Toews was heavily involved in the action. Toews caught a few big hits but kept coming as he picked up an assist while recording two shots. Duncan Keith had five shots on goal and Jeff Carter led the game with six shots. Carter along with Perry, were the two best forwards for Canada.

Latvia goalie Kristers Gudlevskis was almost the hero of the Olympics as he stopped 55 shots and was excellent. Interestingly, goaltender Edgars Masalskis won the day before and upset Switzerland and would have likely been the starter but he was ill. Gudlevskis, a Tampa Bay property, gave Team Canada a huge scare.

My hope is the U.S.-Canada match will be a great game and not be decided in a shootout. The first contest on Friday will feature Finland and Sweden.

The winners will play early Sunday morning in the Gold Medal game. The losers will be back in action Saturday morning and will look to capture a Bronze Medal.

I will be back on Friday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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