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Practice Report

Sidney Crosby expects to see lots of Zdeno Chara

But Team Europe defenseman must face Bruins teammates Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron on Team Canada top line

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / LNH.com Senior Managing Editor

TORONTO -- When Team Canada takes on Team Europe in Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 Final on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports), two matchups in particular will be of great importance.

Center Sidney Crosby likely will see a heavy dose of Team Europe defenseman Zdeno Chara, who has made a career out of shutting down high-end offensive players in high-profile games. The difference this time is Chara will be facing two of his teammates with the Boston Bruins, Crosby's Team Canada linemates Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

Crosby said he's hopeful that familiarity will give his line a bit of an edge against Chara in the opener of the best-of-3 series.

"It's nice to have a couple of linemates who see him every day too. Hopefully a little bit of an advantage there," Crosby said. "But I think everybody knows, either playing against him or playing with him, how good he is. Obviously his size (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) is a big part; he's able to get his stick on a lot of pucks and use his body to knock you off the puck.

"I think the biggest thing when you're playing against him is just be ready to compete. He's a big guy and he's physical, so have that willingness to compete and try to create chances from there."

The other key matchup for Team Canada will be the defense pair of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Shea Weber taking on Team Europe's top line of Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa and Tomas Tatar.

Vlasic and Weber were on the ice for nearly all of Alex Ovechkin's shifts in a 5-3 win against Team Russia in the semifinal Saturday, and there is little reason to believe it will be much different against Team Europe's No. 1 line.

Video: Practice Report: World Cup final

"It's a lot of fun," Vlasic said. "I enjoy playing against top players on every team, and especially on a world-class team like the Russians. Playing against their top line is a lot of fun. I enjoy the challenge and I'm sure [Weber] does too, because he plays against top players all the time."

Playing with the San Jose Sharks in the same division as Kopitar's Los Angeles Kings, Vlasic gets a steady dose of him every season in the NHL and knows what to expect Tuesday.

"He's a big guy (6-3, 224), protects the puck well, can skate, he's good through the middle of the ice," Vlasic said. "He's one of the best two-way forwards in the game. So if you join the rush, he might be right there with you. He makes everybody's job [on his team] a lot easier out there."

Crosby leads the World Cup in scoring with seven points in four games, and a big reason for that success is he has played the whole time with Bergeron, who has been his linemate numerous times when playing internationally for Canada.

That is why Crosby has a greater appreciation for what Team Europe has done in the World Cup thus far, and why the cohesion it has shown makes it a dangerous opponent.

"It's a big challenge," Crosby said. "Throwing everyone together like that with not really a lot of previous knowledge of lines and guys playing together, having developed that [this] quickly, it says a lot. It tells you what kind of team they are and that everyone's kind of willing to do whatever it takes, play different roles and come together that quickly.

"They have some guys who have won there, who understand that. A lot of those guys are playing big minutes and have big responsibilities. They've really played as a team and that's what's got them there."

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