Canada's rivalry with Russia in international hockey doesn't need any extra fuel, but Monday's game between the two nations at the World Junior Championship just got an extra kick.
Russian star Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick of the Edmonton Oilers last June, commented about his strategy for playing in Group B against opponents that include Canada and the United States.
Speaking to Russian news website R-Sport on Monday, Yakupov reportedly said, "I understand that I will have to keep a cool head and ignore provocations. Especially against the Canadians. These guys play dirty. We got used to that, we played a few games in the North America, so our team is ready.
"Of course, I'm ready for the leading role morally, physically and by all other criteria," Yakupov said.
The 19-year-old has been playing in the KHL this season with Neftekhimik after he was allowed to go overseas by his CHL club, the Sarnia Sting. He has 10 goals and eight assists in 22 games this season.
In the Canada/Russia game on Monday (TSN, TSN.ca, 9am et/6am pt), Yakupov will be playing against his future Oilers teammate, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of Canada.