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The hockey world championships have been overshadowed by the Olympic tournament since the 1998 Nagano Games Deion Sanders Jersey , the first to feature NHL players.

Not this year.

The NHL’s decision to skip the Pyeongchang Olympics had an impact. Amid tepid interest in South Korea, the games were often played in half-empty arenas. It will be a different story in Denmark.

The organizers say ticket sales have reached their planned target of 300,000 even before the tournament opens in Copenhagen and Herning on Friday. And there’s no need to worry about a lack of stars. Although Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are busy with their bid for a Stanley Cup three-peat, some of the sport’s biggest names will be on the ice in Denmark.

Canada will be led by NHL leading scorer Connor McDavid after his Edmonton Oilers didn’t make the playoffs, teammate Leon Draisaitl has joined Germany, and the United States will be captained by Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

Here’s a look at the annual tournament that will be played in Denmark for the first time:

THE TOURNAMENT

The event has 16 nations playing in two groups of eight, with the top four in each group advancing to the playoffs.

Olympic champion Russia, defending champion Sweden, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Belarus, Slovakia, France and Austria are in Group A. Matches will be played at the Royal Arena in Copenhagen.

Canada, Finland Andy Levitre Jersey , the United States, Germany, Norway, Latvia, Denmark and South Korea are in Group B. They will play at the Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning.

In Friday’s opening games, Canada will take on the United States while Russia faces France.

The final is scheduled for May 20.

THE FAVORITES

Captained by McDavid, who just clinched his second consecutive Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer with 108 points, Canada is the team to beat at the worlds.

McDavid and Wayne Gretzky are the only two players in NHL history to win the scoring race more than once at 22 years of age or younger.

McDavid will be joined by veteran Buffalo forward Ryan O’Reilly. Both were on the team that won the world title in Russia two years ago.

New York Islanders center Mathew Barzal, who is among the finalists for the Calder Memorial Trophy for the NHL’s rookie of the year, was also named in the squad.

”We have a mix of youth, experience and strong leadership qualities among these players as they have represented Canada on the international stage previously from the world juniors up to last year’s championship,” Canada co-general manager Sean Burke said. ”Their previous success and experience can only help us in our ultimate goal of bringing home a gold medal.”

The Canadians, who will again be led by Carolina Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, won the title in 2015 and 2016 after finishing second last year.

RUSSIAN COACH SWAP

In a surprise move less than a month before the worlds Brandon Mebane Jersey , Oleg Znarok stepped down as coach of Russia’s hockey team after leading the country to the Olympic title – its first in 26 years.

Playing as ”Olympic Athletes from Russia” because of the country’s punishment for doping, Znarok’s team beat Germany 4-3 in overtime in the final.

Znarok became coach in March 2014, taking over a team that lost in the quarterfinals on home ice at the Sochi Olympics. The Russians went on to win the world championship gold that year.

He was replaced by Ilya Vorobyov, one of his assistant coaches, but will still work with the team as a consultant.

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin, who is in a tight Eastern Conference semifinal series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, won’t be available. But Vorobyov can rely on a mixture of NHL-based players and the home talents from the Russia-based KHL, widely considered the strongest league outside the NHL.

Florida Panthers right winger Evgenii Dadonov and SKA St. Petersburg veteran Pavel Datsyuk are among those to make sure Russia remains a contender for gold, even though a lack of the NHL-experienced defensemen and goaltenders could harm the team’s ambitions.

OTHERS TO WATCH

The United States hopes to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish and has a team strong enough to make it happen.

Kane’s presence will no doubt improve the quality of play. He last played at the world championships in 2008, his first season in the NHL and the last time the Blackhawks missed the playoffs, and was in the U.S. team at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.

Buffalo Sabres rookie and world junior MVP Casey Mittelstadt was prevented from playing by a groin injury, but some others will be there, including a trio who claimed bronze at the 2015 worlds in the Czech Republic. They include Detroit Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin, New York Islanders forward Anders Lee and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy.

LAS VEGAS – After knotting its NHL Western Conference final series at 1-1 with a 3-1 victory at Winnipeg on Monday night Kiko Alonso Jersey , the Vegas Golden Knights now hold home-ice advantage for the best-of-seven series. But considering how the Jets have played on the road lately, that might not be a good thing.

Winnipeg, which was an NHL-best 32-7-2 at home during the regular season, has actually played better on the road during the playoffs, winning four of its last five away from Bell MTS Place, including a 5-1 rout of Nashville in Game 7 in the conference semifinals. The only road loss during that span was 5-4 in overtime in Game 2 against the Predators.

“We’ll be ready to bounce back,” Winnipeg center Paul Statsny said of heading into Wednesday night’s Game 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “That’s playoff hockey, right? You win one and all of a sudden they get one and we lose one. You think you have momentum. We view this as a fresh start.”

“It’s a series,” added Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba. “I don’t think anybody is panicking. We’ve been here before.”

The Jets have outscored their opponents 21-9 in their last five playoff road games, which started with a 2-0 blanking of the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 of the quarterfinals. They outscored Nashville 11-3 in their final two games at Bridgestone Arena where the Preds were 28-9-4 during the regular season.

“We like our road game, we like where it was in the Nashville series and we’re going to try and bring the same effort,” Trouba said.

Vegas was 29-10-2 at home during the regular season at T-Mobile Arena and is 4-1 there in the playoffs.

“I think you feed off the crowd for sure,” Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland said. “But the visiting team is coming in and trying to quiet the crowd down as much as they can. They’re going to come out flying and we’ve got to be ready to go.”

A bigger key than playing on home ice for both teams in the playoffs has been the ability to score first. Winnipeg is 8-1 when it scores the first goal while Vegas is 7-1.

Vegas center Jonathan Marchessault, who scored two goals in Monday night’s victory Wil Lutz Jersey , was asked whether he would rather have home ice or the first goal of the game if he had his choice.

“I think playing with the lead,” Marchessault said. “Playing with the lead is huge. When you are able to play with the lead, I think that makes a huge difference.”

Still, Marchessault says he’s looking forward to playing the next two games on his home ice. Vegas, behind two goals by William Karlsson, defeated the Jets 5-2 on Nov. 10 in the only regular-season meeting between the two teams at T-Mobile Arena.

“We’re definitely going to have a fun atmosphere,” Marchessault said. “We’ll get a lot of energy off of that.”

Vegas played without third leading scorer David Perron, who had 16 goals and 50 assists in the regular season and has seven assists in the playoffs, on Monday night. Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant wasn’t sure whether Perron would be ready to go on Wednesday night.

“He’s day-to-day,” Gallant said before his team’s optional skate on Tuesday afternoon. “He’s not feeling well.”
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