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World Cup rules and TV primer: The puck drops Saturday

TORONTO -- Friday is simply a practice day at the World Cup, and it's the last one until group play ends on Thursday. So don't fret about 0-2 that's heading to 0-4 because hockey season is here.

For six straight days starting on Saturday, the Air Canada Centre will be full of games featuring 170 of the world's best players.

The schedule kicks off Saturday at 3:30 with Team USA meeting Team Europe and continues at 8 as host Canada meets the Czech Republic. Team North America, featuring Sabres center Jack Eichel, makes its debut Sunday at 8 against Rasmus Ristolainen-led Finland.

Teams play three games in the round-robin portion of group play and all games are using NHL rules. That means we'll have replay reviews, coach's challenges for toenail infractions and five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime followed by a shootout to break ties. In the semifinals and final, we go to playoff-style overtime (5-on-5 with 20-minute periods until someone scores).

The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals, which are then played in crossover format (Group A winner meets Group B runnerup, Group B winner meets Group A runnerup). The groups are as follows:

Group A: Team Canada, Team USA, Team Czech Republic, Team Europe
Group B: Team Finland, Team Russia, Team Sweden, Team North America

Team Europe features players from a country not otherwise represented by a national team. Team North America is comprised of players from the U.S. and Canada who are under the age of 24. They were deemed ineligible for their national team and only eligible for Team North America. The Sabres are represented by Eichel, Ristolainen, Ryan O'Reilly (Canada) and Dmitry Kulikov (Russia) with South Buffalo's Patrick Kane one of the alternate captains for Team USA. Former Sabres Thomas Vanek, Christian Ehrhoff and Andrej Sekera play for Team Europe.

You've seen piecemeal references all over the place to games and TV, so here is your list to refer to for the entire schedule:

Saturday, Sept. 17
Team USA vs. Team Europe, 3:30 (ESPN2)
Team Czech Republic vs. Team Canada, 8 (ESPNEWS)

Sunday, Sept. 18
Team Sweden vs. Team Russia, 3 (ESPN)
Team North America vs. Team Finland, 8 (ESPN2)

Monday, Sept. 19
Team Europe vs. Team Czech Republic, 3 (ESPN)
Team Russia vs. Team North America, 8 (ESPN2)

Tuesday, Sept. 20
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, 3 (ESPN)
Team Canada vs. Team USA, 8 (ESPN)

Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 (ESPN)
Team Europe vs. Team Canada, 8 (ESPN2)

Thursday, Sept. 22
Team Finland vs. Team Russia, 3 (ESPN)
Team USA vs. Team Czech Republic, 8 (ESPN2)

Semifinals (single elimination)
Saturday, Sept. 24
Semifinal 1, 7 (ESPN2)
Sunday, Sept. 25
Semifinal 2, 1 p.m. (ESPN)

Final (best-of-three)
Tuesday, Sept. 27
Game One, 8 (ESPN)
Thursday, Sept. 29
Game Two, 8 (ESPN2)
Saturday, Oct. 1
Game Three, 7 (ESPN2)

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