Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist lead Penguins contingent at World Championships
When everything goes right, it’s a tournament Pittsburgh Penguins fans pay little mind.
Everything didn’t go right for the Penguins this season, of course, so some of their players will be in the field when the IIHF World Championships begin Friday in Slovakia.
Patric Hornqvist and Marcus Pettersson will try to help Sweden become the first country to three-peat in the tournament since the Czech Republic in 2001.
Evgeni Malkin will lead a star-studded Russian lineup. Matt Murray and Jared McCann will suit up for an always formidable Team Canada. Dominik Simon will play for the Czechs.
Here’s a viewer’s guide to the tournament.
• Hornqvist is a cornerstone of the Swedish attack in international play. He’ll be appearing in his fourth World Championships, having also played for the national team in the 2020 Olympics and 2012 World Cup. In practice, he’s been skating on the team’s top line with Toronto’s William Nylander and Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson.
• Making the national team for the first time as a pro represents another step forward in an important developmental season for Marcus Pettersson. The experience could help the 23-year-old defenseman as he likely takes on a more prominent role with the Penguins next year.
• If Malkin’s NHL reputation has taken a hit lately, it hasn’t in the international realm. He’s been practicing on Russia’s top line with Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov on his wing. Malkin will be playing in the World Championships for the eighth time. He won gold twice and was named tournament MVP in 2012.
• After playing for the under-23 Team North America squad in the 2016 World Cup, Murray is taking the next step forward in international competition by representing his native Canada. Murray stopped 11 of 15 shots in two periods in a tune-up game against Austria on Tuesday.
• A late addition to the Canada roster, the World Championships represents another chance for the 22-year-old McCann to sharpen his game against top competition. It also shows the shoulder injury that caused him to miss a game of a first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders isn’t serious. Playing left wing on a third line with Nashville’s Kyle Turris and Detroit’s Anthony Mantha, McCann scored a goal in a 7-5 Canadian win over Austria on Tuesday.
• Simon returns to the tournament where he first made his name. He emerged on scout’s radars when he played on a line with Jaromir Jagr in the 2015 World Championships and was drafted by the Penguins a few days later. In exhibition action, Simon was playing in a largely unfamiliar position – center – on the top Czech line with Calgary’s Michael Frolik and Philadelphia’s Jake Voracek.
• According to Latvian media reports, Teddy Blueger is off the country’s roster due to an undisclosed injury.
and Ottawa’s Rudolfs Balcers are the only two NHL players on the Latvian roster. That means the 24-year-old Penguins center should see plenty of ice time in key situations.
HANDICAPPING THE FIELD
A Russian team with Malkin, Kucherov, Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has the most talent. Russia and Canada were co-favorites at 5-2 in the betonline.ag odds, but that was before Canada’s No. 1 center, Toronto’s John Tavares, bowed out with an oblique injury.
Two-time defending champion Sweden is the third choice at 7-2, followed by the United States at 5-1, Finland at 10-1 and the Czechs at 12-1. Switzerland, which lost to Sweden in a shootout in last year’s championship game, is 25-1 along with the host Slovakians.
Germany (50-1), Denmark (66-1), Latvia (80-1), Norway (100-1), France (250-1), Austria (500-1), Great Britain (1,500-1) and Italy (1,500-1) are the longshots.
The NHL Network will broadcast all Team USA games as part of a regular morning schedule.
Friday, May 10
Finland vs. Canada, 10 a.m.
United States vs. Slovakia, 2 p.m.
Saturday, May 11
Denmark vs. France, 6 a.m.
Germany vs. Great Britain, 10 a.m.
Slovakia vs. Finland, 2 p.m.
Sunday, May 12
United States vs. France, 6 a.m.
Italy vs. Sweden, 10 a.m.
Great Britain vs. Canada, 2 p.m.
Monday, May 13
United States vs. Finland, 10 a.m.
Slovakia vs. Canada, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, May 14
Great Britain vs. Denmark, 10 a.m.
Switzerland vs. Austria, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, May 15
United States vs. Great Britain, 10 a.m.
Germany vs. Slovakia, 2 p.m.
Thursday, May 16
Canada vs. France, 10 a.m.
Finland vs. Denmark, 2 p.m.
Friday, May 17
France vs. Slovakia, 10 a.m.
Czech Republic vs. Italy, 2 p.m.
Saturday, May 18
Denmark vs. United States, 6 a.m.
Canada vs. Germany, 10 a.m.
Sweden vs. Switzerland, 2 p.m.
Sunday, May 19
Germany vs. United States, 10 a.m.
Switzerland vs. Russia, 2 p.m.
Monday, May 20
Sweden vs. Latvia, 10 a.m.
Canada vs. Denmark, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, May 21
Czech Republic vs. Switzerland, 6 a.m.
Slovakia vs. Denmark, 10 a.m.
Canada vs. United States, 2 p.m.
Thursday, May 23
Quarterfinal, 10 a.m.
Quarterfinal, 2 p.m.
Saturday, May 25
Semifinal, 9 a.m.
Semifinal, 1 p.m.
Sunday, May 26
Bronze medal game, 9:30 a.m.
Gold medal game, 2 p.m.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .