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World juniors: 5 things to watch in Canada vs. Sweden

Canada plays Sweden on Thursday in its fourth and final game of the preliminary round of the world junior hockey championship.

Canada looking for higher seed; big test comes against unbeaten Swedes

Canada will play unbeaten Sweden in their final preliminary round game on Thursday at the world junior hockey championship. (Heikki Saukkomaa/The Associated Press)

Canada (1-1-1) plays Sweden (3-0) on Thursday in the final preliminary-round game for both teams at the world junior hockey championships. It's a pivotal match in Group A, as Canada will earn a higher seeding in the tournament's quarter-finals with a win against undefeated Sweden.

Here are five things to watch:

Need more from Marner

Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner is one of the most skilled players on Canada's junior team but he only has three points in three games. He and longtime friend Dylan Strome have been put on different lines to try and generate offence for the Canadians.

Separated from each other, Strome peppered the net with pucks against Switzerland but Marner has not quite met coach Dave Lowry's expectations. If Canada's going to succeed against Sweden, Marner has to find his groove.

Test for Blackwood

Goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood will get his first real test of the world junior championship against Sweden. He missed the first two games of the tournament as he completed an eight-game suspension from the Ontario Hockey League then faced Switzerland.

Although he gave up two goals in the first period, both were on deflections from the offensively challenged Swiss. Blackwood is considered Canada's best junior goalie and he'll earn his stripes against Sweden's high-powered offence.

D leading the charge

Canada's goaltending has been in flux because of Mackenzie Blackwood's suspension. Canada's forwards have yet to settle in to any steady lines. But Canada's defence — led by Joe Hicketts — has been rock solid.

Sweden is arguably the most offensively gifted team in the world juniors, so Hicketts and the other Canadian blue liners will have the opportunity to quietly prove themselves again.

Nylander in the press box

It's highly unlikely that Toronto Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander will lace up his skates for Sweden against Canada, but he will be conspicuous by his absence.

Nylander leads the American Hockey League in scoring and scored on his one shot in the world juniors. He's been struggling with a suspected concussion after a hard hit by Switzerland's Chris Egli in Sweden's first game of the tournament.

Nylander will likely return to Sweden's roster for the playoff rounds and, no matter what Thursday's outcome, Canadian fans should be aware that if the two teams meet again in the tournament Nylander is a game changer.

Nylander 2.0 on the ice

William Nylander's younger brother Alex, however, will definitely be on the ice. The draft-eligible forward who plays junior with the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads leads Sweden with two goals and four assists and will continue to impress NHL scouts and general managers as he looks to climb up the list of potential draftees.

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