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2016 World Cup of Hockey semifinal preview: Russia at Canada

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Red on Red. Canada and Russia, and the winner goes to the final.

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Game Time: 7 pm Eastern time and 6:30 pm for most pregame shows
TV: ESPN2, CBC, TVAS
Streaming: GameCentre Live, CBC.ca, WatchESPN

There are 54 full members nations of the International Ice Hockey Federation. Hockey is played and loved in every one, and dozens of other countries as well. The game belongs to the world, and this isn't the Canada Cup anymore. It is the World Cup of Hockey.

Yet, it shouldn't surprise that it's us and them facing each other again in an elimination game. And it doesn't matter which of them you call us, we are the red teams, and we've been telling ourselves for years that the game is ours. It's time, past time, to let that go. When we do let it go, we are free to love it as much as we ever did, and feel that extra something when it is us two red teams playing the game head to head.

Nikita Zaitsev

Ours, theirs. How can you separate that?

Watch for his smile when he talks about beating Canada.

Mike Babcock

"Only one of you leaves happy."

Just listen to all of it. He tells you his philosophy of life; he tells you why those multimillionaires are playing this game; he tells you that you don't really get to choose how the game goes. As always with Babcock, there will be a test on this later.

Lineup News

Pavel Datsyuk, a player with SKA St. Petersburg, one of four KHL players on Team Russia, is hurt with the ubiquitous lower body injury, and may or may not play in this game.

Vadim Shipachev drew in to replace him in the game against Finland, which was no bad thing.

Canada is going with exactly the same lines as their last game, so Claude Giroux, Jake Muzzin and Braden Holtby are scratched.

Their Records

Canada finished group play with three regulation wins, a goal differential of +11, and a goals against average of precisely one.

Russia had two wins and one loss, to Sweden, and they finished with a goal differential of +3 after allowing five against.

Both teams have had great goaltending, with Canada's duo facing 13 fewer shots against over three games.

The Matchup

Canada has no weaknesses. Their defence may be boring and predictable, but that's how Babcock likes it, and he's made the much maligned Jay Bouwmeester look good. They never surprise him, and he's happy.

Their offence has an astonishingly good duo of scorers on either side of Ryan O'Reilly on the fourth line. Their strengths and weaknesses make them fit so well, they'd be the top line on an NHL contender.  The other three lines are better.

Carey Price is Carey Price.

Russia has all the Russian issues. The coach maybe, probably, almost certainly doesn't get Alex Ovechkin. The defence is weak (but getting better), and a hot Sergei Bobrovsky has got them this far.

Zaitsev gave you the rundown in his interview of what they need to do: they can't give the Canadians power play time, they need to play tough in the neutral zone and they have to score more goals.

The Chance of an Upset

I think that's up to Bob and Alex and Oleg (As in Znarok, the coach). If Bob is a wall and Alex is alight with that spark he has on the Capitals and Znarok lets him have his head...

Carey Price is Carey Price. And if he's having a bad day, his backup is Corey Crawford. If Sidney Crosby is having a bad day, Jonathan Toews and Stephen Stamkos are up next.

If the predictable Bouwmeester doesn't cut it, Brent Burns is standing right there.

And only one red team leaves happy.

Projected Lines

Canada (Home team)

Brad Marchand - Sidney Crosby - Patrice Bergeron
John Tavares - Ryan Getzlaf - Steven Stamkos
Logan Couture - Jonathan Toews - Corey Perry
Joe Thornton - Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Shea Weber
Jay Bouwmeester - Drew Doughty
Alex Pietrangelo - Brent Burns

Carey Price
Corey Crawford

Russia

Subject to change depending on Datsyuk and Znarok's lineblender.

Nikita Kucherov - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Alex Ovechkin
Vladimir Tarasenko - Evgeni Malkin - Nikolay Kulemin
Evgeny Dadonov - Vadim Shipachev - Artemi Panarin
Vladislav Namestnikov - Artem Anisimov - Ivan Telegin

Nikita Zaitsev - Dmitry Orlov
Alexei Emelin - Andrei Markov
Alexey Marchenko - Dmitry Kulikov

Sergei Bobrovsky
Semyon Varlamov