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Player Diaries

World Cup diary: Aleksander Barkov

Team Finland center discusses tournament format, showdown against Team Russia

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

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 began in Toronto on Saturday and runs through Oct. 1.

In his latest installment, Barkov talks about the game against Team Russia on Thursday, especially going against several of his idols, including Pavel Datsyuk, and what he has learned through two games of group play.

TORONTO - After two games, we are not where we wanted to be.

In this short tournament, you have to win almost every game, and we haven't. Right from the first game, you have to play well right away. You can't miss one period. We missed maybe two periods against Team North America, and it was like 4-0. Then, it is almost impossible to come back (an eventual 4-1 loss). We were better against Team Sweden but we still lost (2-0).

Maybe in the World Championship tournament you can lose two or three games in group and you can still go to the quarterfinals, but here you have to play every game hard and win every game. So, you have to prepare hard in the summer and be ready at the beginning.

This is a different format than the World Championship, so you have to be ready. At the world championships, we have such a long training camp before that and we get used to each other and get to know each other well. Now, here, we play three exhibition games and then start right away against the best players in the world.

I don't know if it would be different for us in another format. Of course, if we had been playing for 10 exhibition games, we would be a lot better. But, we should have been better in the first game.

But this has been a great experience for me. I can't say it is over yet, because we have one more game [Thursday] against Team Russia. It's a big thing for me and a big experience for me to be here. I learned from this and can use it going forward. I look at this tournament and it is one of the best times of my life. It is great to be with these guys here and play against the best guys in the world. I think it is a great experience for the fans, for the players, for everybody.

I am looking forward to the game against Russia. It's my second home country and I am always very excited to play against them. It gives me more motivation to play against them and to beat them. It's a big thing for us as a team, too. It's almost same thing as against Sweden; it's a big rivalry. We want to beat them and they want to beat us.

It's great to play against those guys I have been idolizing my whole life, like [Evgeni] Malkin, [Pavel] Datsyuk, [Alex] Ovechkin. It's a lot of fun to play against them. It's like when you go in to faceoff against Datsyuk, it's like a dream come true because when you were young, you were idolizing him, and now you are in a faceoff against him. It's just an awesome feeling.

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