TEAM NORTH AMERICA vs. TEAM SWEDEN
Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN, SN, TVA Sports)
What's at stake: Team Sweden needs one point to clinch a berth in the semifinals. It leads the Group B standings with four points on regulation wins against Team Russia and Team Finland by a combined score of 4-1. Team North America is tied with Team Russia with two points, but Team Russia holds the tiebreaker because of its head-to-head win against Team North America. Team Russia doesn't play its last preliminary round game until Thursday against Team Finland. A win of any kind by Team North America against Team Sweden will put Team Russia in a must-win situation Thursday. A loss of any kind by Team North America means Team Russia would need one point against Team Finland to advance into the semifinals.
Team North America: Goalie John Gibson will start with Connor Hellebuyck backing him up. Matt Murray, who started Team North America's first two games, is day-to-day with a right thumb injury.
Ryan Murray is apparently battling an undisclosed injury and will be a game-time decision. Coach Todd McLellan said Ryan Murray will skate in warmups.
If Ryan Murray can't play, Team North America will be forced to play with 13 forwards and five defenseman because Aaron Ekblad (upper body) left the team to return to Florida for evaluation and rehabilitation with the team doctors for the Florida Panthers.
Per World Cup rules, a team can only add a replacement player if it can't ice a team with 18 healthy skaters.
Team North America is coming off of a 4-3 loss to Team Russia on Monday. It allowed four goals in a span of 6:14 in the second period. Otherwise, it had control of the game and outshot Team Russia 19-4 in the third period and 27-6 after Team Russia took a 4-1 lead at 15:43 of the second.
McLellan was tinkering with the lines in practice Tuesday, an indication that changes could be coming against Team Sweden.
"The line production, once we flipped some lines around [against Team Russia] and the tenacity on each line went up, was productive," McLellan said. "So we'll look at health, we'll look at their lineup, we'll look at the production from our group. We won't be afraid to narrow it right down and run the guys right out of gas whoever's playing in [Wednesday] afternoon's game."
Team Sweden: Goalie Henrik Lundqvist will start for the second straight day after making 36 saves in a 2-0 win against Team Finland on Tuesday, Team Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said. It was Lundqvist's World Cup debut because he sat out the first game with an illness.
"I want to go," Lundqvist said after defeating Team Finland on Tuesday. "It's an important game. We're not in yet."
Patrik Berglund will replace Mikael Backlund in the lineup. Berglund will be making his World Cup debut. He played in Team Sweden's final pretournament game last Wednesday after getting added as a replacement for Rickard Rakell two days earlier.
Team Sweden expects a higher pace than it has seen in its first two games. It has been able to play with good structure from back to front so far, but it knows that structure will be put to the test against the speedy young players on Team North America.
"Yeah, we definitely have seen the games North America's been playing, they play with a lot of speed and skill," Team Sweden forward Loui Eriksson said. "But our team is really good at protecting the house and playing good defensive hockey as well. We're just going to try to play our game. We like to have the puck and make plays. We definitely have more routine than them and hopefully we can bring that [Wednesday]."
Keep your eye on: Team North America forward Jack Eichel, who might get dropped down in the lineup. McLellan said he thinks Eichel has "another gear there" from what he's shown so far in the World Cup. "He's got to take it up a notch," McLellan said. "He knows that." Eichel scored a goal against Team Finland in the tournament opener, but he was held off the scoresheet and was a minus-2 against Team Russia. He played 20 shifts totaling 14:31 against Team Finland and 16 shifts totaling 14:02 against Team Russia.
Here are the projected lineups:
TEAM NORTH AMERICA
Auston Matthews - Connor McDavid - Mark Scheifele
Johnny Gaudreau - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nathan MacKinnon
Dylan Larkin - Sean Couturier - Vincent Trocheck
Brandon Saad - Jack Eichel - J.T. Miller
Ryan Murray - Seth Jones
Morgan Rielly - Colton Parayko
Shayne Gostisbehere - Jacob Trouba
Injured: Matt Murray (thumb), Aaron Ekblad (upper body)
Scratched: Jonathan Drouin
Daniel Sedin - Henrik Sedin - Loui Eriksson
Filip Forsberg - Nicklas Backstrom - Patric Hornqvist
Carl Hagelin - Marcus Kruger - Jakob Silfverberg
Gabriel Landeskog - Patrik Berglund - Carl Soderberg
Mattias Ekholm - Erik Karlsson
Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Scratched: Jhonas Enroth, Mikael Backlund, Hampus Lindholm