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World Cup Pre-Tournament Games Start Thursday

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

After over a year of anticipation and three days of training camp practices, actual games for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey are set to begin with pre-tournament contests on Thursday.

Duchene

Each of the eight teams in this year's competition will play in three exhibition games in preparation for the start of group play on Sept. 17. The pre-tournament outings will be a chance for players and coaches to do some experimenting in a real-game format before the event officially gets going in Toronto.

The Colorado Avalanche has six players competing at the World Cup with Matt Duchene on Canada, Nathan MacKinnon on North America (under-23 squad), Semyon Varlamov on Russia, Gabriel Landeskog and Carl Soderberg on Sweden, and Erik Johnson on the United States.

The opening day of exhibition play begins on Thursday with Sweden at Finland in Helsinki at 10 a.m. MT and the Czech Republic at Russia in St. Petersburg at 10:30 a.m. MT. Team North America then faces Team Europe at 6 p.m. MT at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada.

Johnson

Friday will feature a prime-time contest between Canada and the United States at 5 p.m. MT at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, the first of two meetings between the rivals in pre-tournament play. They'll also meet on Saturday at 5 pm. MT in Ottawa at Canadian Tire Centre.

The Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Russia will play their first two exhibitions in Europe before heading across the Atlantic Ocean for their last outing next Tuesday and Wednesday in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

The tournament itself will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, with all games being played at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Every pre-tournament and tournament contest will be televised live on the ESPN networks in the United States and on SportsNet and TVA Sports in Canada.

MacKinnon

The clubs will be split into two groups for round-robin play before squaring off for the elimination rounds.

Group A will feature Canada, the Czech Republic, the U.S. and Team Europe, while Group B will include Russia, Finland, Sweden and North America. Team Europe will be comprised of the top players from European nations not already represented in the tournament. Team North America will consist of North American-born players who will be 23 years old or younger as of Oct. 1, 2016.

The top two finishers from each group will advance to a semifinal on Sept. 24-25. The remaining squads will then face off in a best-of-three final with games played on Sept. 27, Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, if necessary.

Landeskog

Some of the more intriguing storylines during training camp have been with Team North America and how they'll fair against older, more experienced competition and jell together with Americans and Canadians playing side by side in an international format.

MacKinnon told NHL.com after the first practice on Monday that the under-23 team could match any of the other squads in the tournament.

"I don't think there's another more skilled team than ours," said MacKinnon, who centered a line with fellow first-round draft picks Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Auston Matthews (2016) in the session. "I'll go against anybody's roster and put ours against them, and for speed and skill, you know, this isn't a full season or a playoffs, this is one-and-done, and we have the talent and ability to beat anybody, for sure."

Soderberg

Varlamov will be in a goalie competition on Team Russia, as he'll be battling for playing time with Sergei Bobrovsky and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Reports indicate that each of the three netminders will play in the pre-tournament games before head coach Oleg Znarok makes a final decision on who the top keeper will be for Russia's World Cup opener on Sept. 18 against Sweden.

"I don't know who is going to be No. 1, 2 or 3," Varlamov said to NHL.com on Monday. "All the goalies are looking good so far. I don't know who is going to be playing, who is going to be the starting goalie. I think the coaching staff, they have some ideas about it but they don't say anything to us. We're all going to be ready to play in the World Cup. It's a short tournament, so probably not all of us are going to play the whole tournament."

Varlamov

Varlamov has helped Russia to a title before, as he backstopped the country to a World Championship gold medal in 2012. He has played for the Russians at three World Championships and at two Olympics.

In total, Avalanche players bring seven gold, four silver and two bronze medals from various IIHF events into the World Cup. Duchene might have the most complete trophy case of the bunch, having helped Canada finish atop the podium at the 2015 and 2016 World Championships, 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2008 Under-18 World Championship.

PRE-TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Thursday, September 8
Czech Republic vs. Russia – St. Petersburg, Russia, 10:30 a.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports)
Sweden vs. Finland – Helsinki, Finland, 10 a.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports)
Europe vs. North America - Quebec City, Canada, 6 p.m. MT (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)

Friday, September 9
Canada vs. USA - Columbus, Ohio, 5 p.m. MT (ESPNU, SN, TVA Sports)

Saturday, September 10
Finland vs. Sweden – Gothenburg, Sweden, 10 a.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports)
Russia vs. Czech Republic - Prague, Czech Republic, 8:30 a.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports)
USA vs. Canada – Ottawa, Ontario, 5 p.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports)

Sunday, September 11
Europe vs. North America – Montreal, Quebec, 4 p.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports)

Tuesday, September 13
Finland vs. USA – Washington, DC, 5 p.m. MT (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)

Wednesday, September 14
Czech Republic vs. North America – Pittsburgh, Pa., 1:30 p.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports)
Canada vs. Russia – Pittsburgh, Pa., 5:30 p.m. MT (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)
Sweden vs. Europe – Washington, D.C., 5 p.m. MT (ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports 2)

2016 WORLD CUP OF HOCKEY SCHEDULE

All Times Mountain
All Games Played at Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Group A
Team Canada
Team Czech Republic
Team Europe
Team USA
Group B
Team Finland
Team North America
Team Russia
Team Sweden


Preliminary Round (round robin) (away team listed first)

Saturday, Sept. 17
Team USA vs. Team Europe, 1:30 p.m. (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)
Team Czech Republic vs. Team Canada, 6 p.m. (ESPNEWS, SN, TVA Sports)

Sunday, Sept. 18
Team Sweden vs. Team Russia, 1 p.m. (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Team North America vs. Team Finland, 6 p.m. (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)

Monday, Sept. 19
Team Europe vs. Team Czech Republic, 1 p.m. (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Team Russia vs. Team North America, 6 p.m. (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)

Tuesday, Sept. 20
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, 1 p.m. (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Team Canada vs. Team USA, 6 p.m. (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)

Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 1 p.m. (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Team Europe vs. Team Canada, 6 p.m. (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)

Thursday, Sept. 22
Team Finland vs. Team Russia, 1 p.m. (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
Team USA vs. Team Czech Republic, 6 p.m. (ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports)

Semifinals (single elimination; A1 vs. B2, B1 vs. A2)

Saturday, Sept. 24
Semifinal 1, 5 p.m. (ESPN2, CBC, TVA Sports)

Sunday, Sept. 25
Semifinal 2, 11 a.m. (ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports)

Final (best-of-three)

Tuesday, Sept. 27
Final Game 1, 6 p.m. (ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports)

Thursday, Sept. 29
Final Game 2, 6 p.m. (ESPN2, CBC, TVA Sports)

Saturday, Oct. 1
Final Game 3 (if necessary), 5 p.m. (ESPN2, CBC, TVA Sports)

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