The U.S. will meet Sweden in its first of two pre-tournament games today at 12:30 p.m. ET. The game will air live on NHL Network (no NHL.com stream though). This game will be the crucial evaluation point for the guys on the bubble for Team USA. What happens today could have a big impact on who the final 23 guys going to Ufa will be.
For some help on what to watch for, you can click here for yesterday’s preview post.
Team USA’s lineup for today’s game came out just a bit ago.
Team USA will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen today, which is two less than normal. The six scratches are all guys that are locked into spots on Team USA. Going with two less players will ensure that all of the guys the U.S. needs to see more of will get plenty of ice time.
Coming up after the jump, the lines, the scratches and some analysis.
Alex Galchenyuk – Sean Kuraly – Mario Lucia
Jimmy Vesey – Vince Trocheck – Tyler Biggs
Blake Pietila – Cole Bardreau – Ryan Hartman
Stefan Matteau – (no center) – Riley Barber
SCRATCHED: Johnny Gaudreau – J.T. Miller – Rocco Grimaldi
— The three guys scratched are likely going to be a line for Team USA at this tournament. They already showed good chemistry in camp and that likely made them easy to scratch today. They’ll be in the game against Finland, but no need to risk injury or take away ice time from the guys who need it more to try and make the team.
— These lines could get jumbled up again, but I would not anticipate the group of Pietila-Bardreau-Hartman to get split up much if at all today. That is looking like Team USA’s set-in-stone fourth line. They practiced together for much of the camp and each has a skill set that can get the job done in that role.
— Alex Galchenyuk is back on the left wing, which should free him up for more offense. The line he is with is not one he practiced with at any time in New York. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a few shifts at center, too, possibly between Matteau and Barber. Galchenyuk has been bouncing around a lot in the camp, so we’ll have to see where he ends up as the best fit.
— Mario Lucia and Sean Kuraly, who had great chemistry in the summer camp, are back together. Lucia, normally a left wing, will line up on the right side, at least to start. He can score from the off wing pretty well, so that could be interesting. Going with Alex Galchenyuk could spark some production from both Lucia and Kuraly so this could be an intriguing line.
— Vesey is getting a big opportunity playing on a top-six line as well. He’s probably on the bubble as much as any of these forwards. He’ll have to prove he can keep pace with Trocheck and help contribute offensively along with Biggs.
— I’m not reading too much into Matteau and Barber not having a center. Both of those guys are firmly in the mix and will likely get plenty of opportunities to showcase themselves.
Patrick Sieloff – Mike Reilly
Shayne Gostisbehere – Brady Skjei
Jake McCabe – Connor Murphy
SCRATCHES: Jacob Trouba, Seth Jones
— It’s amazing how different this lineup looks when you take away Jones and Trouba. That said, it’s pretty clear these two will be the big-minutes guys for Team USA so sitting them down won’t do any harm. With those two out, it vastly changes the pairings, so there’s really not a lot we can learn in terms of who the U.S. envisions with who.
— There’s only one right-shot defenseman in the game today in Connor Murphy. He spent a lot of time with Jake McCabe in camp and the fact that that they’re paired up again today looks like a pretty good indication USA would like to see them together in Ufa.
— I think the two guys with the most to prove today are Mike Reilly and Brady Skjei. The pair of Minnesota defensemen have the skills to make the team, but they have to prove they’re better options than similar players. The amount of ice both get should be a pretty good indication of how much Team USA’s staff needs to see out of them.
— With Jones and Trouba out, it’ll be interesting which players find themselves on special teams. The guys receiving serious consideration for those roles should get the most reps today in the absence of the scratches who are all assuredly power-play guys. The PK units could be pretty close to what the U.S. is hoping to use in Ufa, sans the scratched D.
Garret Sparks – Jon Gillies
SCRATCHED: John Gibson
— Gibson getting scratched is no surprise. He’s the starting goalie for the tournament.
— Today is a good chance for Sparks and Gillies to show who belongs where on the goalie depth chart. I’d expect both guys to see time today.
If you can’t watch the game today, you can follow along with the live stats here.
Team USA’s roster with numbers can be found here.
Check back on USofH after the game for an in-depth look at who stood out and who failed to impress.