Under construction

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

A little glitter could come off Sweden's Olympic gold as the world hockey championship begins today in Riga, Latvia.

A combination of fatigue, Olympic burnout, National Hockey League no-shows and injuries will severely hamper Tre Kronor's chances to win two titles in four months. While the same problems are bedevilling Canada and other top teams in the 16-nation field, Sweden seems to be having the hardest time constructing a team.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist and Mikael Tellqvist were too banged up to accept invitations, leaving the No. 1 job for Detroit Red Wings prospect Stefan Liv. The Swedes are also without big guns such as Mats Sundin, Peter Forsberg, Nicklas Lidstrom, Markus Naslund and the Sedin twins.

Canada, which opens against Denmark today, announced earlier in the week it was adding Philadelphia Flyers' Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, Nashville Predators' Scott Hartnell and Dan Hamhuis and Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars. They are waiting on a couple of invitees from the just-eliminated Calgary Flames and Detroit Red Wings, but have 15 confirmed for a roster that can be as high as 25 in the medal round. There is a short-term option of activating European club players, such as Toronto native Glen Metropolit, who is now with the team. They will keep roster spots open for NHLers eliminated in the second round.

Here's a look at the major contenders:

CANADA

Sidney Crosby didn't make the playoffs or the Olympic team and likely will be runner-up for rookie of the year. But here's another chance to show Hockey Canada that he will be a force in Vancouver in 2010. Ex-Leaf Brad Boyes hopes to extend his breakout season with the Boston Bruins. Alex Auld (Vancouver Canucks ) and Marc Denis (Columbus Blue Jackets) are the goalies.

RUSSIA

Thrilled to beat Canada in Turin, but they went home without a medal and there were reports of clashes between old-guard Russian coaches and the NHLers in Italy. There were calls for a sweep similar to Canada's post-Nagano renovation of team makeup, but they won't be shutting out NHLers such as Alex Ovechkin and next year's projected rookie star, Evgeni Malkin.

SWEDEN

Coach Bengt Gustafsson is back and should have at least Henrik Zetterberg, Mikael Samuelsson and Nicklas Kronwall returning from the Turin squad. Kenny and Jorgen Jonsson are in from the Swedish League.

FINLAND

"Young and hungry" and "Canadian style" is how this team is being advertised, though some of its silver medallists stayed out. Antero Niittymaki returns to the net, despite Miikka Kiprusoff's unexpected playoff exit. Ex-Leaf Aki Berg will play and two of the five fine Finns from the Dallas Stars (Jussi Jokinen and Antti Miettinen) are due this week.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Another team unlikely to get many big NHL names. They definitely will be missing Dominik Hasek and Jaromir Jagr. But Tomas Kaberle is expected to stabilize the defence.

UNITED STATES

The red, white and blue is very green in goal with Craig Anderson of the Chicago Blackhawks and Jason Bacashihua of the St. Louis Blues. Hal Gill of the Bruins adds size on defence and young star Phil Kessel could enhance his draft status.


Videos

Photos