The 2013 IIHF World Championship got underway today, and a handful of Buffalo Sabres will be extending their seasons in this two-week event that takes place in Stockholm, Sweden, and Helsinki, Finland.
Andrej Sekera and Slovakia were the first out of the blocks, posting a 6-2 win over France in the opening game of the 16-team tournament this morning. The Sabres blueliner picked up an assist and skated a game-high 24:54 of ice time in the victory.
Friday’s schedule also included a pair of games featuring two other Sabres. Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is captaining the German squad, and they opened against Finland; while Jhonas Enroth and Team Sweden hosted Switzerland at the Globe Arena in Stockholm. Enroth is expected to share the Tre Kronor goaltending duties with Florida’s Jacob Markstrom.
Thomas Vanek will suit up for Austria, and his first game comes on Saturday against the United States in Helsinki. Sabres Hall of Famer Phil Housley is an assistant coach for Team USA, just months after leading the country’s Under-20 team to gold at the World Junior Championship in Russia.
Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo’s second of two first-round picks (14th overall) in last June’s Entry Draft, tweeted earlier today that he was leaving Rochester and heading to Finland to join up with the Latvian team that is coached by former Sabres bench boss Ted Nolan. The 19-year-old Girgensons is coming off a team-leading three-goal performance in Rochester’s three playoff games against Toronto, following a rookie season that saw him collect 17 points (6+11) in 61 games with the Amerks.
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There are several other Buffalo connections scattered throughout the tournament. Former Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff will guide a Canadian team that also includes defenseman Brian Campbell; Miro Satan joins Sekera on Slovakia; Henrik Tallinder will patrol the Swedish blueline, and Chris Butler will do the same for Team USA. Forward Jiri Novotny is not only playing for the Czech Republic, but he’s somehow been named the captain of a team that is clearly bereft of leadership.
The tournament will also give Sabres fans the chance to renew acquaintances with a trio of former draft picks that are no longer part of the organization: Philip Gogulla (Germany; 2005, 2nd rd), Felix Schutz (Germany; 2006, 4th rd) and the legendary Denis Denisov (Russia; 2000, 5th rd).
The 16 countries are divided into two eight-team pools, with each country will playing seven games in the preliminary round that runs until May 13. The top four teams in each pool advance to the sudden-death quarterfinals that take place on Thursday May 16, followed by the semis on Saturday, May 18. The gold and bronze medal games will be played on Sunday, May 19. The semifinal and medal-round games will all be played in Stockholm.
NBC Sports Network will air each Team USA game, along with full coverage of all quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games. Click here for the full breakdown of NBC’s broadcast information.