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World Cup of Hockey Preview: The teams, the schedule, the Sabres involved

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Everything you need to get ready for the World Cup of Hockey.

Hockey: World Cup of Hockey-Team North America-Practice Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been said about a certain game played with an elliptical spheroid recently, but with the World Cup of Hockey kicking off its preliminary games, the game played with vulcanized rubber is back in action starting today. Here’s everything you need to know about the World Cup of Hockey, which begins this afternoon and runs through October 1.

What is it?

The World Cup of Hockey is a tournament among Earth’s best hockey squads, including one made up of the youngest, best players from North America, and one made up of a union of European players. The winner receives a heaping helping of national pride and probably a trophy.

When does it take place?

There are three phases to the tournament. The first is a pre-tournament set of exhibition games taking place in a number of cities all over the world, from North America to Russia. These twelve games run from September 8-14. The second phase is a round robin between two groups, each containing four teams, going from Sep 17-22.

Following that is a single elimination tournament beginning on Sep. 24, involving all teams and going straight to the finals, with the championship game being played on Saturday, October 1.

How do I watch?

In a blast from the past, ESPN is the broadcast partner for the World Cup of Hockey. Most games in the pre-tournament round will be broadcast on either ESPN2 or the online-only ESPN3. In the round robin and elimination rounds, all games except one will be broadcast on either ESPN or ESPN2. In Canada, the games will be broadcast on CBC, SN, and TVA Sports.

Find the full schedule and broadcast plans right here.

Which Sabres players are involved?

With the removal of Robin Lehner from Team Sweden in favor of Jhonas Enroth, there are only two three Buffalo Sabres players participating in the tournament.

Jack Eichel will play a prominent role for Team North America, the team made up of the best U-24 players from America and Canada. He’s centering the second line alongside Johnny Gaudreau and Brandon Saad, and is manning the half-wall on the #1 power play for the young guns.

Rasmus Ristolainen was also selected for Team Finland. The Finns have a deep blueline that includes Sami Vatanen and Olli Maatta, so he may not have as prominent a role as Eichel, but this tournament should provide valuable playoff-like experience for both young players. (Edit: Actually he’s playing on Finland’s top pairing and #1 PP. Nice.)

Dimitry Kulikov, acquired by the Sabres at the NHL Draft, is also playing for Team Russia.

You can find the complete list of all rosters here.

How are we covering the tournament?

We’ll have open threads and viewing info for the round robin and playoff games, and we’ll be using this article as a discussion thread for the kick-off games today. Six of the eight teams are in action this afternoon/evening including Team North America, while Team USA plays Team Canada tomorrow night.

Who’s ready for some hockey?

EDIT: A previous version of this article did not include Dimitry Kulikov.