Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov is playing for Team Finland at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. The 21-year-old has agreed to keep a diary throughout the tournament, which begins in Toronto on Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 1.
In his second installment, Barkov talks about the state of the team heading into its first pretournament game against Team Sweden at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland on Thursday (Noon ET; ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports). He also talks about unwinding with some video-game sessions against some of his teammates.
HELSINKI, Finland -- I think the team feels pretty good. We've been practicing for three days and hanging out together. We are enjoying it a lot. It has been good to stay here for a few days for practice and now to play our first game here before we go to Sweden for a game Saturday, and then to Washington to continue our preparation before going to Toronto to start the tournament. I think it is going to be a good tournament and that we are going to enjoy it.
Playing Sweden, even in a game like this, means a lot to us. I think we hate Swedes and Swedes hate us. Of course we want to beat them and they want to beat us. It's kind of like the Montreal Canadians against the Boston Bruins or something like that. They have a pretty good team and I think we have a pretty good team too. I think it is going to be a tough game; it's always a tough game when it is Finland against Sweden.
It's really good to start with a tough game like this. I think it is going to be the toughest practice game ever for me and I have to be ready for it.
It's going to be exciting to see how our team looks for the first time since getting together. We have some pretty skilled guys on this team. We have three centers on the one line there with Valtteri Filppula, Teuvo Teravainen and Jori Lehtera, and they really understand each other and it will be fun to see what they can do. Of course, I played with Patrik Laine and Jussi Jokinen at the 2016 World Championship and I thought we had real good chemistry. The other lines are great too, so it is going to be fun to see.
We have had a lot of time to bond since we have been here in Helsinki. We all live on the same floor of the hotel so we are always hanging out. We are going to have a team dinner tonight and eat some good food. When we have nothing to do as a team, I just like to relax and maybe play some video games. Right now, I am playing a lot of "Call of Duty," but I like NHL, FIFA and "Grand Theft Auto." I like everything. It doesn't matter to me, I can play anything. Patrik Laine is my biggest competition. I play "Call of Duty" against him and he is pretty good. I haven't played too much "Call of Duty," so I think he is a little bit better, but I will catch up to him.