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Team USA kicks off World Cup versus Team Europe

Three Wild players to participate in tournament's opening game on Saturday

by Evan Sporer / Special to

TORONTO --  Twelve years after its most recent incarnation, the World Cup of Hockey officially returns on Saturday when the United States and Team Europe play at the Air Canada Centre (2:30 p.m., ESPN 2) in the first game of the 2016 tournament.

Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise and defenseman Ryan Suter, who have played a combined 59 games for the United States' senior team in competitive tournaments, are both expected to be in the lineup.

"We have to go out and establish our style of play right away, and keep things simple," Suter said. "They have a lot of skill over there. If you turn the puck over it could really end up costing you. Just keeping it simple and doing the right things."

Opposite them will be forward Nino Niederreiter on Team Europe, comprised of skaters of European countries not represented in the tournament.

The Swiss-born Niederreiter has played 18 games for Switzerland in senior tournaments. Team Europe is represented by players hailing from eight different countries.

"At the end of the day you always want to represent your country in a tournament like that, but at the same time when I heard there was going to be a Team Europe my goal was to be a part of it," Niederreiter said. "I was trying to prove myself to be a part of that team, and now I'm fortunate and lucky to be a part of it."

Niederreiter said the team has gelled both on and off the ice the longer it has spent together. Head Coach Ralph Krueger said players were eating with teammates who spoke the same language at the beginning of its training camp, but has since come together.

"The first few games you could obviously tell was a bit different, and we had to adjust ourselves," Niederreiter said. "It was an interesting feeling in the locker room."

Team Europe lost its first two pre-tournament exhibition games against Team North America by a combined score of 11-4, before upsetting Sweden, a tournament favorite, in its third and final exhibition game, 6-2.

"You're finding you're building relationships with different kinds of players, and get to know the players, and now it's fun in the locker room," Niederreiter said. "Everybody is pulling the same string."

With the earlier start time, neither team took a morning skate. Both teams practiced on Friday, and though neither Kreuger nor U.S. head coach John Tortorella revealed much of their lineups, here is where the Wild players are projected to play:

Zach Parise skated on a forward line at left wing with center Joe Pavelski and right win Blake Wheeler. Parise also was on a power-play unit with forwards T.J. Oshie, Patrick Kane, Pavelski, and John Carlson.

Ryan Suter skated on a defense pair with Carlson. He also was on a power-play unit with forwards Ryan Kesler, Max Pacioretty, Derek Stepan, and James van Riemsdyk.

Nino Niederreiter skated on a line in at right wing Team Europe's final exhibition game with forwards center Leon Draisaitl and left wing Marian Gaborik. 

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