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World Cup game day preview: Three games kick off pre-tournament action

World Cup of Hockey preseason action starts right now. Stop reading this and go watch it! There are lots of Leafs players on the ice.

Two of the three top draft picks are on the ice in World Cup friendlies today.
Two of the three top draft picks are on the ice in World Cup friendlies today.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Today's games take place in Europe and Canada.

Sweden at Finland

At noon today, Toronto time, Finland hosts their friendly neighbours Sweden at Hartwall arena, home of Kasperi Kapanen's WJC triumph.

Finland is putting Pekka Rinne in net to face Jacob Markström, who has Toronto's Jhonas Enroth backing him up while Henrik Lundqvist enjoys the press box. Lundqvist will start in net in the return match of this mini-series in his home arena in Gothenburg on Saturday.

Sweden is also scratching Hampus Lindholm and Mikael Backlund both of whom were last minute additions to the team to replace injured players. Their top line is the all-Vancouver Canucks super line of captain Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Loui Eriksson. Erik Karlsson and Mattias Ekholm are the top pair on defence, followed up by an okay duo of Victor Hedman and Anton Strålman.

Finland is going for maximum flash with Patrik Laine on the top line with Aleksander Barkov and Jussi Jokinen. Leo Komarov is playing fourth line wing with Erik Haula and Lauri Korpikoski, so we should expect physical Leo and agitator Leo, not goal scoring Leo. But he might sneak one in past Markström just for fun.

This game will be the Finnish system and that flashy top line against the stellar defence of the Swedes. Full projected lineups are available here.

Czech Republic at Russia

Hitting the ice at 12:30 pm, the very unheralded Czechs get a tough test in their first pre-tournament game.

Sergei Bobrovsky is expected to face Petr Mrazek today in St. Petersburg.

Russia is icing a lineup weak on defence but almost overwhelming on offence. Alexei Emelin and Artem Anisimov are the scratches today, but that leaves a star-studded offensive lineup that just begins with captain Alexander Ovechkin who is playing on the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nikita "no contract" Kucherov.

Nikita Zaitsev is the top pairing right defender with Dmitry Orlov on the left side.

Pavel Datsyuk and the rest of his SKA St. Petersburg teammates are expected to play, even though though they have an important game tomorrow which they all may miss.

The Czechs are doing the best they can. They are sitting their two recent injury replacement players and going with the best lineup they have. Tomas Plekanec centres the top line with Jakub Voracek and Mical Birner, and Roman Polak, just like future teammate Zaitsev, is the top pairing right-shooting defender. The Czech second pair of Jakub Nakladal and Andrej Sustr looks a little better to my eye.

Milan Michalek, just like Komarov, is the fourth line winger.

The Czechs gave the star-studded Russian team fits at the World Championships a few months ago, but this time around, I think the Russians have this one in the bag.

Full projected lineups are available here.

Team North America at Team Europe

Getting underway tonight at 8 pm local time in Quebec City, the two mixed up teams of this tournament get their first chance to play against each other.

Europe, without Frederik Andersen, who is out with an injury timed to heal completely by the start of training camp, will put Jaroslav Halak in with Thomas Greiss as backup tonight as Philipp Grubauer has yet to join the team.  Matt Murray will start for North America.

Lines aren't set yet for either team, but the practice lines for Team North America have been the subject of some Leafs fan scrutiny since Auston Matthews started out as the 13th forward playing wing on the fourth line. Everyone expects Matthews to work his way up out of that spot quickly.

Team Europe has some interesting forwards, a completely left-handed defence corps that includes some unsigned NHL free agents, and very little chance against the young stars on Team North America. Right now, they are most notable for deciding to have no anthem played at their games.

While we wait for word on who is playing on which line, this tells you all you need to know about the character of Team North America:

Broadcast and Streaming

All of today's games are available on Sportsnet, ESPN and TVA, and may be available streamed for subscribers. All games should be available on Game Centre Live.