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World Cup

Team Russia coach questions opponents' injuries

Oleg Znarok said other teams' roster moves may be 'subterfuge,' not due to health reasons

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok senses a trend.

Since the 23-man rosters for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 were announced May 27, six of the eight teams have needed to replace at least one player because of injury.

Team Russia and Team Finland haven't had any players drop out of the tournament, which will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1. Znarok said he isn't so sure that bad luck has factored into the other teams' injury problems.

"I don't know if it's injuries or not," Znarok said in Russian after a training camp practice at Yubileyny Sports Palace on Tuesday. 'You can call it any word. It's kind of subterfuge. [A] player maybe just doesn't fit and you can say he is injured. That's it."

In its first pretournament game, against Team Czech Republic at Yubileyny Sports Palace on Thursday (12:30 p.m. ET; ESPN 3, SN, TVA Sports), Team Russia will face a team that has been ravaged by injuries. In the past week it had to replace Boston Bruins center David Krejci, San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas.

Given the significant roles those three players would have played, Team Czech Republic would have loved to have them available for the World Cup. Forwards Michal Birner and Roman Cervenka and defenseman Tomas Kundratek were selected as their replacements. Birner and Kundratek play in the KHL. Cervenka plays in Switzerland for HC Fribourg-Gotteron.

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