The World Cup of Hockey will drop the puck on Saturday afternoon in Toronto, and the Chicago Blackhawks’ biggest stars will be taking the ice for their respective countries as the tournament gets underway.
Patrick Kane and his Team USA teammates will get things started at 2:30 p.m. Central when they take on Marian Hossa and Team Europe in the tournament opener. In the nightcap at 7:00 p.m., Jonathan Toews and Team Canada will take the ice in their home country as they battle Michal Kempny and the Czech Republic.
In the first game of the day, the U.S. will be looking to get their tournament off to a good start against a European team full of veteran stars from several countries on the continent. Kane is one of the team’s most talented players, and along with stars like Joe Pavelski and Max Pacioretty, he’s hoping to create enough offense for the team to come out on top.
Oddly enough, U.S. head coach John Tortorella decided to scratch defenseman Dustin Byfuglien ahead of the team’s first game. The curious move robs the United States of one of their most physical players on the blue line and will also cause Jack Johnson to slot in as a defenseman in the game, a move that is raising some eyebrows among those covering the tournament.
In the nightcap, the heavily favored Canadian squad will take on a Czech Republic team that isn’t expected to do much in the tournament field. Loaded with talented players at every position, the Canadian squad also has Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford on the roster, but he’ll take a back-up role to Carey Price when the games begin on Saturday night.
In practice on Friday, Toews was skating on the Canadian team’s second line, with Logan Couture and Corey Perry on his wings. With players like Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, and Steven Stamkos on the squad, Toews’ line won’t have to carry the burden of scoring, but there is a good chance that the Hawks captain will get some highly favorable matchups to find his scoring touch in the tournament.
On the Czech side, Kempny has emerged as a dynamite two-way threat in the squad’s pre-tournament exhibitions, and he’ll look to continue that in a very tough matchup. The Czech side is one of the biggest underdogs going into the tournament, but if Kempny can continue his solid play, and if players like Ondrej Palat and Jakub Voracek can find their offensive groove, then the team could potentially cause some issues in group play.
The rest of the Blackhawks’ stars at the World Cup of Hockey will hit the ice on Sunday afternoon in Toronto, with Niklas Hjalmarsson, Artemi Panarin, and Marcus Kruger among the Hawks that will play in the second set of tournament games at Air Canada Centre.