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World Juniors 2016: Belarus vs Canada preview, TV schedule, lineups, and game thread

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Everything you need to know as Canada takes on Belarus in a tune-up game for the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship.

Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

UPDATE: Recap and highlights of Canada's 7-1 win over Belarus

In the 2015 World Junior Hockey Championship, Team Canada's relentless offensive attack found them facing little adversity through the group stage and playoff rounds, beating six opponents by a combined score of 34-5 for a berth in the championship game. The final was a much closer affair, as Team Russia proved the greatest threat to prevent Canada from winning the gold medal for a sixth consecutive year. But that was as lofty an achievement as Russia could claim from the event, falling to Canada 5-4 in the battle for the gold medal.

This year, Canada will be defending that title in Helsinki, Finland, and they start things off with a tune-up game this afternoon.

Canada's opponent will be Belarus; the team that won its own championship a year ago, winning the Division IA title to take Germany's spot in the Top Division. Many of the top players for Belarus in that tournament are too old for this year's under-20 event (an issue with the promotion rules, and something Gord Miller will be sure to mention early and often during the tournament).

Dmitri Buinitsky, who has played the majority of the 2015-16 season in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk, will be relied upon to be Belarus' best player in the tournament. Alexei Pansenkin led last year's Division IA U-18 tournament in points (one ahead of Buinitsky) and should help, as well.

The vast majority of the players (as well as the coach) come from Dinamo Minsk's junior team. That familiarity could give them a leg up in the early stages of the tournament as others teams' players try to learn the tendencies of their linemates. That familiarity hasn't really helped in league play this year, however, as 19-year-old Danila Karaban is the only player producing at close to point-per-game pace, with 23 points in 25 games.

Second in team scoring, with six goals and 15 points, sits diminutive defenceman Vladislav Goncharov. Goncharov and hulking Ottawa 67's defender Stepan Falkovsky, who has 17 points through 31 OHL games this season, will make an odd-looking duo, but they will be the most dangerous offensive options from the back end.

The player who may be just plain dangerous is the 6'7", 235-pound defenceman Matvei Bozhko, who has managed to accumulate 89 penalty minutes in just 16 games for Dinamo U20; averaging more than five minutes per contest. He's big, he's mean, he'll ... probably be suspended before the group stage even begins.

Montreal Canadiens fans will have their eye on a defender playing for Team Canada, as Noah Juulsen is poised to not only survive the last round of cuts, but to play on the top pairing alongside Carolina Hurricanes' prospect Haydn Fleury.

Up front, Mitchell Marner and Dylan Strome will try to reproduce the offensive prowess that Max Domi and Anthony Duclair provided in last year's tournament. There is offensive skill throughout the Canadian lineup, however, with many of the CHL's eligible top scorers selected for the 2016 team.

Whether the recent shift from a more well-rounded roster to one heavily skewed toward offensive skill will work once again and allow Canada to repeat as champions for the first time since a string of five in a row before the gold drought remains to be seen. The next test of that philosophy will take place later today.

You can watch the game on TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, TSN5, RDS2, or streaming on TSN GO. You can listen to the game on the TSN radio network.

Puck drop is at 12:00 PM EST / 9:00 AM PST.
Team Canada Projected Lineup
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Lawson Crouse
Dylan Strome
Mitchell Marner
Brendan Perlini
Brayden Point
Jake Virtanen
John Quenneville
Anthony Beauvillier
Julien Gauthier
Rourke Chartier
Mitchell Stephens
Travis Konecny
Left Defense Right Defense
Haydn Fleury
Noah Juulsen
Thomas Chabot
Joe Hicketts
Jérémy Lauzon
Roland McKeown
Travis Dermott
Brandon Hickey
Goaltenders
Mason McDonald
Samuel Montembeault

Scratches: Mathew Barzal (F), Jayce Hawryluk (F), Nick Merkley (F), Travis Sanheim (D), MacKenzie Blackwood (G)

Team Belarus Projected Lineup
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Artemi Chernikov
Dmitri Buinitsky
Danila Karaban
Vadim Malinovsky
Ilya Bobko Ruslan Vasilchuk
Alexander Patsenkin Dmitri Filippovich Alexei Patsenkin
Alexander Piliya Alexei Busko
Andrei Belevich
Left Defense Right Defense
Vladislav Goncharov
Stepan Falkovsky
Daniil Bokun
Vadim Klyazvo
Sergei Romanovich
Ilya Sushko
Pavel Vorobey
Alexander Tabolin
Goaltenders
Vladislav Verbitsky
Alexander Osipkov