- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Teams representing the United States, Sweden and Finland will play in a pair of exhibition games at Verizon Center next September in advance of the resumption of the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto later that month.

The United States will face Finland on Sept. 13 and Sweden will take on Team Europe, a collection of players from other European nations, on Sept. 14. The two games will serve as a tune-up for the eight-team tournament that will also include Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic and a team consisting of the top North American players 23 and under.

“[It’s] just another step in the process of building this great hockey community,” said Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, “and we’re very, very grateful to the league and to the players’ union to have the faith in our fans and in our infrastructure to be able to support such an important new league initiative.”

Washington will be one of three U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, to host exhibition games leading up to the event, which will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1. The teams could all also use Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the Capitals’ practice facility in Arlington, for their practices.

David Touhey, the general manager of Verizon Center, said the NHL asked for cities interested in hosting the exhibition games to volunteer over the summer. Washington made the preliminary list, then worked with the league to find suitable dates.

The 25-man rosters for the games will be used in the actual tournament. One of those two games will be televised by ESPN.

“USA was a natural fit, and then we went hard after Sweden, too, because we’ve got Nick Backstrom,” Capitals assistant general manager Don Fishman said. “We’re putting our games on separate nights. We think USA will be a big night, but we think Nick Backstrom and Team Sweden will be a big night, too, so we aggressively went after that.”

Backstrom, the Capitals’ top-line center, will presumably be selected to play for Sweden. Right wing T.J. Oshie and defensemen John Carlson and Brooks Orpik could also be asked to represent the U.S. in the tournament, which is being held in conjunction with the NHL, the NHL Players’ Association and the IIHF.

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