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McDavid-Matthews duo a focal point for Team North America opener

TORONTO -- There's a video game feel to roster construction for every club in the World Cup of Hockey but what Team North America plans to unveil in its opener Sunday might take the cake.

The top line for the 8 p.m. game against Finland: Connor McDavid centering Auston Matthews (and Winnipeg's Mark Scheifele). The second line: Sabres star Jack Eichel between the equally speedy combo of Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and Detroit's Dylan Larkin.

Matthews will be the focal point in the game for Team North America. From 13th forward when camp started two weeks ago in Montreal, he's on the top line for his debut game in the Air Canada Centre -- the rink where he will start playing Maple Leafs savior in less than a month.

"It's a big night for him," said McDavid, who grew up north of Toronto in Newmarket. "He's playing in his new barn, the ACC, which to me is the idea of what the NHL is. It's what I grew up watching. It might be a little different for him growing up in Arizona but still it's a very special arena and I know he'll be ready to go."

After practice Saturday in Ricoh Coliseum, home of the AHL's Toronto Marlies, Matthews pointed out his team has four skilled lines but admitted his slot next to McDavid takes on some added significance.

"When you play with a player like him it's a pretty special feeling," Matthews said. "It's a good opportunity. Hopefully we can complement each other well."

As for Eichel, he's looking forward to a game within the game with a matchup against Finnish defense standout and Sabres teammate Rasmus Ristolainen.

"It's going to be a little different obviously but I'm excited," Eichel said. "It's always nice to go against teammates in a good, competitive way. It's a good starting point. Rasmus is a physical player, so tough to play against. He always gets the other team's top line so it will be interesting."

Team North America has made things interesting for hockey fans all month with its under-24 roster filled with future stars. The official unveiling is at hand.

"We don't know where this tournament or this North America concept is going to go in four years," Eichel said. "For us to be the first to do it is pretty exciting. There's that little bit of unknown. People are anxious to see what we can do. That makes our team the one to come watch."

email: mharrington@buffnews.com

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