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LG Hockey Games Underway - World Championships On Horizon

The LG Hockey Games are currently underway and they do a good job of acting as a tune up for the IIHF World Hockey Championships as they conclude 5 days before the larger World Championship begins in Germany.  Participation in the LG games is limited to Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic.

Three Leafs are currently playing for Sweden.  Rickard Wallin, Carl Gunnarsson, and Jonas Gustavsson are all reprising their roles on the Swedish Tre Kronor side from last season. Nikolai Kulemin is playing for the Russian entry and there are no Leafs currently playing for Finland or the Czech Republic squads.

Gustavsson is the only goalie on the Swedish roster with any NHL experience. He will play in net along with junior giant Jacob Markström and Anders Lindback of Brynäs and Timrå respectively.  Markström has started both of Sweden's games so far and has lost both while posting a .891 SV%, and allowing 6 goals on 55 shots for a 2.93 GAA.  Gustavsson may end up starting in the World Championships if management is displeased with the results in the LG tournament.

Gunnarsson is patrolling the blueline along with fellow NHLers Viktor Hedman of Tampa Bay and Erik Karlsson of Ottawa.  The other 6 blue liners on the team include prospects like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Christian Bäckman.

Wallin is playing up front with a group that is lacking in NHL experience, but Niklas Bergfors, the key piece of the Ilya Kovalchuk trade that was moved from New Jersey to Atlanta is suiting up for the team. Other familiar names include Michael Nylander, and Oilers prospect Magnus Svensson Pääjärvi who spent this past season playing for Timrå.

Kulemin has registered 1 goal in two games and is currently rated a +1 in 2 games.  The Russian team features a number of former and current NHLers including Maxim Afinogenov, Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alex Radulov, Evgeni Artyukhin, Artem Anisimov, Dmitri Kalinin, and Enver Lisin.  The Russians are likely to add Ilya Kovalchuk, Denis Grebeshkov, and Alexander Frolov before the World Championships begin.  This World Championships is likely to be a shot at some level of redemption for a Russian Hockey Team that achieved it's worst showing at the Olympics since 1956.

There was also a large amount of discussion in Sweden around whether or not Nicklas Backstrom would return to play up front for his home country now that Washington has been eliminated from the playoffs, but he has declined the invitation.

Other Leafs who are currently on World Championship rosters include Francois Beauchemin for team Canada and Christian Hanson for team USA.