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Reasons for Optimism

Team North America looks to remain undefeated

Goes for second win in preliminary-round play; Team Russia counting on loaded offense

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Team Russia will attempt to win its first preliminary-round game after a tough loss on Sunday, and Team North America looks for its second convincing win at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. They play each other at Air Canada Centre on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports).

Team Russia lost to Team Sweden, 2-1, after Alex Ovechkin's tying goal late in the third period was disallowed because he batted the puck with his hand into the net. Team North America didn't allow a goal to Team Finland until the final six minutes in an impressive 4-1 win.

Here are four reasons for optimism for Team Russia and Team North America:

1. No lack of scoring threats: Despite scoring one goal, Team Russia is loaded with offense talent. Captain Alex Ovechkin has 525 career NHL goals, including seven 50-goal seasons, Pavel Datsyuk has 314 NHL goals and Evgeni Malkin has 295. Artemi Panarin had 30 goals in his rookie season in 2015-16 and won the Calder Trophy.

"They've got tremendous players that have played a lot of international games," Team North America coach Todd McLellan said. "They have the ability to score from anywhere, any line, and I think, like I said, we'll be tested. [Datsyuk], I had the luxury of being around him for a few years, and he's kind of the godfather of that team. He'll have his team ready. He'll have them prepared, and they're going to come out and compete."

2. Let's get physical: Team Russia and Team Sweden were even in most statistics (29-28 Team Sweden in shots; 13-12 Team Sweden in blocks; 52 percent to 48 percent Team Russia in faceoff wins), but there was one area in which Team Russia dominated. It had 32 hits (to 14 for Team Sweden). Thirteen players had at least one hit for Team Russia, including a game-high six by defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, five by defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and four by Ovechkin. Establishing physical play early could be key for Team Russia.

3. Murray the great: Matt Murray made 24 saves against Team Finland, allowing the lone goal with less than six minutes left. He hasn't missed a beat since backstopping the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup in June; Murray stopped 39 of 40 shots in 100 minutes of pretournament action, including a 23-save shutout in a 4-0 win against Team Europe on Sept. 8.

"It's tough in this tournament because I know that goals against is a tiebreaker at some point, so yeah, it hurts a little bit," Murray said on allowing the late goal. "But we won, and that's what matters. I think we played the way we needed to tonight. We were on the puck quick and moving the puck fast and shooting a lot, which I think is key."

4. Rolling four lines: The Team North America roster can count on scoring from all lines, which is what happened Sunday. The top three lines were each on the ice during a goal and 10 players had at least one point (defenseman Colton Parayko was the only player with two points, both assists).

"It's a pretty good feeling to go out there and contribute," said Team North America forward Auston Matthews, who had an assist in the win. "All four lines really brought something tonight. Everybody was out there kind of doing their part."

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