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WCH 2016: Team USA vs. Team Europe Preview

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins Saturday, when Team USA faces Team Europe at 3:30 PM EST. The game can be seen on ESPN2, SN, and TVA Sports.

The Americans are looking for a strong outing against an underdog European squad, especially because they play a stacked Canada team on Tuesday.

Team USA finished the preliminary round with a 2-1 record, defeating Canada once as well as Finland. Its lone loss came in the second game against the Canadians.

Team Europe—though thin on both offense and defense—has some quality players on its roster. Anze Kopitar and Roman Josi are both elite-level skaters, and Jaroslav Halak has the ability to steal a game.

That being said, the United States has a much deeper team with stronger talent on paper. It should be able to come out with a victory in the opening game.

A loss would be a massive upset, but we’ve seen those happen before.

Matchup

Team USA Statistic (Exhibition) Team Europe
2-1 Record 1-2
9 Goals For 10
9 Goals Against 13
1/11 (9.1%) Power Play 1/8 (12.5%)
12/16 (75%) Penalty Kill 6/8 (75%)
Derek Stepan (2g 2a 4p) Leading Scorer Leon Draisaitl (3g 0a 3p)

Even though Team USA possesses more skill than Team Europe, the clubs’ preliminary numbers are quite similar. In fact, Europe had a better special-teams performance, having the same penalty kill percentage as the United States but a better power play.

Team USA Projected Lines

Forwards

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Parise Pavelski Wheeler
Van Riemsdyk Stepan Kane
Pacioretty Kesler Oshie
Dubinsky Backes Palmieri

Defensemen

Left Defense Right Defense
McDonagh Carlson
Suter Byfuglien
J. Johnson E. Johnson

Goaltenders

Goaltender
Quick
Bishop

*This lineup was used in Team USA’s practice on Friday, per Pierre LeBrun

The Americans have done a bit of line jumbling since their first preliminary game of the tournament.

Zach Parise and Blake Wheeler, who started the exhibition round on the second line, have moved up to the first line with captain Joe Pavelski.

Patrick Kane dropped down to the second line to help spread the scoring talent. Max Pacioretty fell to the third line after having a few less-than-steller games.

Matt Niskanen appears to be the odd man out on the blueline, assuming Dustin Byfuglien plays as a defenseman throughout the tournament.

As expected, Jonathan Quick will be the starter for Team USA. Ben Bishop will serve as the backup, with Cory Schneider being the third netminder.

Team Europe Projected Lineup

Forwards

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Boedker Kopitar Zuccarello
Tatar Nielson Hossa
Gaborik Draisaitl Niederreiter
Rieder Bellemare Hansen

Defensemen

Left Defense Right Defense
Chara Josi
Sekera Streit
Ehrhoff Sbisa

Goaltenders

Goaltenders
Halak
Greiss

*Team Europe lineup projected by Marc Dumont

Both Tomas Vanek and Dennis Seidenberg could be out of the game based on some of the lineups Team Europe iced in the preliminary round.

Halak will be serve as the starting goaltender for his team throughout this tournament. Thomas Greiss allowed four goals on eight shots before getting pulled in his only game of the exhibition.

About Drew Weber

Drew Weber is a lover of hockey and abuser of analytics. Prior to joining Pucknology, he covered the San Jose Sharks and Team USA for The Hockey Writers and contributed briefly to Fear the Fin. You can follow him on Twitter at @puck_over_glass.

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