For fans who have been longing for hockey season to start up, Thursday should provide a nice appetizer course as teams begin their exhibition schedules ahead of the World Cup of Hockey.
On tap for Thursday are a trio of games, including an exhibition between Finland and Sweden and the vaunted Russian side taking on the Czech Republic.
Team North America will wrap up the day with a game against Team Europe.
For Chicago Blackhawks fans, the games will provide an opportunity not only to see players from their team take the international stage, but they will also showcase talented players from around the globe as they compete in what will become a quadrennial event.
In the first game of the day between Sweden and Finland, three Blackhawks players will hit the ice. Ville Pokka will represent Finland in the game, skating on the third defensive pairing alongside Esa Lindell. Former Blackhawk Teuvo Teravainen will also play for the Finnish side in the game, playing on the third line with Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera.
For the Swedes, Marcus Kruger will center the team’s third line with Carl Hagelin and Jakub Silfverberg. Niklas Hjalmarsson will man the team’s third defensive pairing, playing with Arizona Coyotes standout Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the game.
The day's second game will feature Team Russia, with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov representing the Blackhawks, taking on a Czech Republic side that features new Blackhawks defenseman Michal Kempny.
In the nightcap, Marian Hossa will play for Team Europe as they take on the North American squad that features the youngest stars from the United States and Canada. Former Blackhawks star Brandon Saad will skate for North America as they look to prove that they can hang with the big dogs on the international stage.
The Finland-Sweden game will be streamed live on ESPN3, and the Europe-North America game can be seen at 7 p.m. Central time on ESPN 2.