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World Cup Game Preview

Team Canada wary of Team Czech Republic in opener

Teams begin preliminary-round play in Group A

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor


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 


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  

Michal Neuvirth 

Petr Mrazek  

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  

Carey Price 

Corey Crawford 

Scratched: Claude Giroux, Jake Muzzin, Braden Holtby 

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