2012 Hockey World Championship

BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA - MAY 15: The Finland team pose for a photo after winning the IIHF World Championship gold medal match between Sweden and Finland at Orange Arena on May 15, 2011 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship starts tomorrow, co-hosted by Finland and Sweden, and goes on until the 20th of May. As always, there is a strong NHL presence at the tournament - this year though just two Buffalo Sabres are going to be playing at the Worlds, backup goalie Jhonas Enroth (Sweden) and defenseman Andrej Sekera (Slovakia). There would have been a third but forward Nathan Gerbe pulled out of the USA squad with the same lower back injury that kept him out of the Sabres' closing run during the regular season.

There is a change in the format of the competition this year, with the sixteen teams divided into two groups of eight ensuring each team plays seven games in the first phase. The two groups are titled Helsinki and Stockholm where they will be playing all their games. The top four teams in each group progress to the quarter finals, where they will play within the group again (H1 vs H4, H2 vs H3, S1 vs S4, S2 vs S3) before the remaining four teams will meet in Helsinki for the semi-finals. More after the jump, including a poll on who you tip to win it all.

Finland are the defending champions having beaten Sweden 6-1 in the final last year in Slovakia. That was just the second time the Finns have emerged winners in the tournament's 75 year history. The Czech Republic beat Russia for the bronze medal. The Czechs had earlier eliminated the USA team in the quarters while Canada had been eliminated by Russia 2-1 in one of the best games of the tournament, also in the quarters.

The official website for the tournament contains a wealth of information regarding the rosters, schedules and other facts. Also, all sixty-four games will be streamed live worldwide on a dedicated YouTube channel for the competition. Note - access to the YouTube channel might be blocked during USA games due to broadcasting rights. NBC Sports Network will be broadcasting the USA games while TSN, RDS and CTV have the rights for Canada games.

Here is the game schedule for the Championship, and below are the groups.

Helsinki:


Stockholm:

Finland

Russia

Canada

Sweden

USA

Czech Republic

Switzerland

Germany

Slovakia

Norway

Belarus

Latvia

France

Denmark

Kazakhstan

Italy

Keep it here on Die By The Blade as we follow the fortunes of the Sabres playing in the tournament.

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