TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC vs. TEAM CANADA
Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Saturday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPNEWS, SN, TVA Sports)
What's at stake: This is the first preliminary round game for these Group A teams.
Team Czech Republic: Assistant coach Jaroslav Spacek refused to confirm the starting goaltender after the morning skate, though signs point to it being Michal Neuvirth. In two pretournament games, Neuvirth stopped 45 of 46 shots for a .978 save percentage and 0.63 goals-against average. Team Czech Republic enters as an underdog but had the same status against Team Russia and Team North America during the pretournament schedule and won each time. "I kind of like it, to be [an] underdog," forward Ondrej Palat said. "It's a challenge for us. You're going to have to do everything possible to win a hockey game."
Team Canada: Forward Claude Giroux, defenseman Jake Muzzin and goaltender Braden Holtby will be scratched. Coach Mike Babcock said he is using Ryan O'Reilly, added to the roster this week to replace injured Tyler Seguin, at center on the fourth line between Joe Thornton and Matt Duchene because of O'Reilly's ability to kill penalties, something Giroux has not been asked to do. Goalie Carey Price will start with Corey Crawford as the backup, a bit of a surprise because it looked like Holtby had the inside track for that job in training camp. Team Canada may be the favorite but is not approaching it like that. "I think every time I've been to an international event, the Czechs have competed hard," center Ryan Getzlaf said. "I don't know what their record is at it, but they play hard. There's a lot of good players over there who we respect. We're prepared to play [Saturday]."
Keep your eye on: Price will play in his first game that counts for something since he sprained the MCL in his right knee on Nov. 25. Price played in two pretournament games and made 45 saves on 50 shots for a .900 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA. "We saw in the second game that he played already how much better he was, how much more confident he was in his abilities," Team Canada forward Steven Stamkos said. "We're looking forward to seeing the Carey Price that everyone knows."
They said it: "I think [we've] got pretty good four lines. The chemistry is building now and I think [we've] got really good four lines equally. We don't just have one big line. And I think it's been working. Every line scored last game. That could be the key. If you want to be successful, you need really four lines going that everybody can score and everybody can defend. We need all four lines. We need everybody." -- Team Czech Republic forward Michael Frolik
Here are the projected lineups
TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC
Milan Michalek - Tomas Plekanec - Jakub Voracek
Ondrej Palat - Martin Hanzal - David Pastrnak
Michael Frolik - Radek Faksa - Ales Hemsky
Roman Cervenka - Vladimir Sobotka - Dmitrij Jaskin
Michal Kempny - Roman Polak
Jakub Nakladal - Andrej Sustr
Michal Jordan - Zbynek Michalek
Scratched: Michal Birner, Tomas Kundratek, Ondrej Pavelec
Brad Marchand - Sidney Crosby - Patrice Bergeron
John Tavares - Ryan Getzlaf - Steven Stamkos
Logan Couture - Jonathan Toews - Corey Perry
Joe Thornton - Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Shea Weber
Jay Bouwmeester - Drew Doughty
Alex Pietrangelo - Brent Burns
Scratched: Claude Giroux, Jake Muzzin, Braden Holtby