Switzerland's international ice hockey season gets underway on Tuesday with Ralph Krueger's men taking on Canada at Zurich's Hallenstadion. The match marks the start of Swiss preparations for next year's World Championships.
The match will also be an opportunity to avenge the 5-3 defeat inflicted by Canada in the quarterfinals of this year's championships, a game which Switzerland had been winning 3-2 with just seven minutes to go.
The Canadian team that takes to the ice in Zurich should pose slightly less of a challenge than the side Switzerland faced in St Petersburg, though. On Tuesday Canada will be entirely represented by players based in Europe, the vast majority of them playing in Switzerland.
But considering how early in the season it is, Krueger said he had no complaints about a Canadian line-up that includes Zurich Lions' Adrien Plavsic, Lugano's Joel Savage and the Davos strikers Pat Faloon and Lonny Bohonos.
"We've never been able to play a team as strong as this before the spring," insisted Krueger, as he contemplated a demanding start to his fourth season in charge of the Swiss national side.
Although Switzerland will be hoping to build on the success of reaching the last eight in St Petersburg, Krueger warned that the start of the season can be a testing time. "Six months have passed since the World Championships," he noted, "and players change, just
like any people."
Krueger will not have to worry, though, about too many actual changes to his personnel. Only three of the players in Tuesday's squad are without any World Championships experience in the past three years, two of whom (Marc Reichert and Goran Bezina) have been called up for the first time.
Just seven players are missing from the side that went to St Petersburg. Michel Riesen, Reto von Arx and Thomas Ziegler are currently playing in North America. Sutter and Alain Demuth are injured while Flavien Conne has been excused after a family bereavement. Claudio Micheli is the only one of the seven to have been dropped by the coach.
With both sides appearing relatively strong, the Swiss ice hockey association is hoping to see a large crowd in Zurich. Whether the fans will be rewarded with a long overdue win against Canada is another matter.
As well as beating Switzerland in the last two World Championships, Canada's weaker teams have recorded 11 wins and just two defeats against Switzerland during Krueger's time in charge.
swissinfo with agencies