Russia aiming for redemption at ice hockey worlds
Finland's Mikael Granlund (L) scores against Russia's goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov during the Men's Ice Hockey Play-offs Quarterfinals at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 19, 2014 - by Julio Cortez
They came into their home Olympics in Sochi as one of the favourites for gold but suffered failure and humiliation when Finland eliminated them in the quarter-finals.
But they are feeling confident ahead of the 78th world championships, not least because unlike several other teams whose stars are involved in the NHL play-offs and consequently will miss the opening stages of the competition, they can count on Washington Capitals forwards Alexander Ovechkin and Yevgeny Kuznetsov.
"We lost the (Sochi) Olympics and now we need to climb again onto the peak where we have been before," Russia's skipper Ovechkin was quoted as saying by Russian media.
"We're 95 percent ready for the worlds and still have several days in hand to fine tune our play."
Russia will also be able to count on Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, his country's only Vezina Trophy winner, given to the best NHL goaltender of the year.
Holders Sweden are another team who will be aiming to shrug off their Olympic disappointment.
Last year, Sweden beat Switzerland 5-1 in the final to become the first hosts to win the title since the Soviet Union in 1986.
And now they are hoping to match their 1992 exploit when the Scandinavians last managed to retain the title.
To do so would also go some way towards erasing the memory of February's 3-0 defeat to Canada at the Sochi Games.
Canada, who last won the world title in 2007, perhaps pose the biggest threat to Sweden's hopes.
They will be led by Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett.
"Hockey Canada has had a great season this year, so we look forward to capitalizing on that momentum in Belarus." the 52-year-old Tippett said.
Other teams expecting to challenge will be Switzerland, the United States, Finland, and Czech Republic.
There are two groups of eight teams with the top four in each advancing to the quarter-finals.
There, however, they will face a team from their own group rather than the other group, as was the case prior to 2012.
The two bottom-placed teams will be relegated to Division One and replaced by Austria and Slovenia in next year's tournament.
Sweden are teamed up with Czech Republic, Slovakia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, France and Italy in Group A.
Group B comprises the hosts Belarus, Finland, Russia, the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Latvia and Kazakhstan.
The final will take place on May 25.