TORONTO -- When Team Europe set its lineup to take on Team Sweden in the third and final of the pretournament games of the World Cup of Hockey 2016, coach Ralph Krueger opted to leave Mikkel Boedker out of the game, in deference to the games that Boedker had played in Olympic qualifying for Denmark.
Team Europe defeated Team Sweden 6-2. The lineup was set heading into the tournament.
Boedker has not played in the four games that Team Europe has played, not in the preliminary round, not in the semifinal. But his skills will be called upon in the best-of-3 final against Team Canada, which starts Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports), after Team Europe lost Marian Gaborik to a lower-body injury in its game against Team Sweden in the semifinal.
"Gaborik goes out, but Boedker comes in," Team Canada defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. "Boedker has just as much speed as Gaborik. Gaborik's an elite player, but so is Boedker. All of their players are top players on their teams, and Boedker's no different. He'll fill the hole that Gaborik leaves."
Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi told the Los Angeles Times that Gaborik would miss eight weeks with a foot injury. Krueger said that Gaborik had been injured in the first period of the game against Team Sweden in the semifinal, but still played through the rest of the game.
Said Anze Kopitar, "I was surprised yesterday morning when I, first of all, saw his foot, and then he told me what the [situation] is, so it was kind of shocking."
Unfortunately for both Team Europe and the Kings. For now, though, his absence on Team Europe is more pressing.
"The impact will be that we're losing some leadership and some smarts on the puck that have really been exemplary for us," Krueger said of Gaborik. "He got us going in game two, Marian did, but his character to play through the injury, right through, score a goal against the Swedes is really part of the little pieces that this group's made of."
But even with the loss, Krueger remained optimistic about what Team Europe can do against Team Canada, making the switch between Boedker and Gaborik.
"Speed, No. 1," Krueger said of what Boedker brings. "He's one of the most powerful skaters in the National Hockey League. He's excellent on the power play, and we need to get that going. Overall, just his creativity and his surprise that he brings into a game will definitely be helpful, and again he's completely fresh on those powerful legs. I'm sure he'll be a strong player for us tonight."
For Boedker, who signed a four-year contract in the offseason with the San Jose Sharks as a free agent, this wasn't exactly the way he envisioned getting into the lineup. But he's ready. As he said, "You just do your job on the ice. Stay professional. Just make sure you stay calm and stay ready. I think that's the most important thing. Obviously I don't see the lineup. If I did, I would be in every time."
Now, though, he is in. So how will he attack that chance?
"I think you've just got to keep it simple and make sure you just make smart plays," said Boedker, who scored 17 goals and had 34 assists last season for the Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche. "Obviously Canada comes fast and they come strong, but for me it's all about just keeping it simple and just making sure that I can help the team out any way possible."