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Team Canada’s Drew Doughty says that when he looks around the locker room you realize how good a team he is on.

Kyle Robertson/Associated Press

There is an unmistakable air to Team Canada entering the World Cup this weekend, and it's fitting for a country that has dominated the highest levels of international play in recent years.

This time, after back-to-back gold medals at the Olympics in Vancouver and Sochi, the Canadians have a swagger. They exude confidence, throughout the roster, about who they are and how they play.

This isn't 2002, when the crippling pressure created by their loss four years earlier in Nagano nearly overwhelmed the all-star team that eventually triumphed in Salt Lake City. This is a roster of Canadian players that, as a group, have become this country's golden generation, and they largely only know winning at best-on-best events.

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They now expect to win. And they talk like it.

"We're all confident players," explained defenceman Drew Doughty, who at 26 years old already has two Olympic gold medals, two Stanley Cups and a world junior gold. "When you look around the room, you see how good of a team we really do have. You have no choice but to be confident in this team.

"We could make two teams and probably be successful," he later added.

Canada opens its tournament on Saturday as the overwhelming favourite. It will face the Czech Republic, a country that has gradually faded away in international play, to the extent it is usually cast as the sixth-best team in a sport in which there are often only six realistic medal contenders.

Many Czech players said Friday they had never played on a team that had beaten Team Canada, at any level. Their countrymen's historic win at the 1998 Games is hardly inspiration.

"You know what, it was a long time ago," defenceman Roman Polak said. "The hockey's changed so much. We have to be focused on this team. We know they're going to have a great team."

"They want to go out and prove people wrong," Czech assistant coach Vinny Prospal said of his team's motivation.

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Team Canada's focus, meanwhile, is proving everyone right. A dozen players on this roster were part of the group that cakewalked through the Sochi Games 2 1/2 years ago, outscoring the opposition 17-3.

Matt Duchene, a green rookie at that event, called what they did playing "keep away," a strategy Canada's coaching staff developed to counteract the big ice surface and the defensive style other countries played. He admitted to being nervous before the elimination games there, at least until he looked around the dressing room and realized no one else was.

The hockey will be different this time, Duchene explained, but in a sense better and more entertaining, on an NHL ice surface. Players' comfort level there should only help Canada, too.

"It's fortunate," Duchene said.

Canadian head coach Mike Babcock has cautioned his players that they can't expect simply to recreate what happened at the last Olympics by going through the same motions. Not only is the ice surface smaller, but the format is less forgiving, with no minnows such as Austria and Norway to beat up on.

"When you're one of the better countries in hockey, the preliminary round at the Olympics and world championships is like exhibition," Babcock said.

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Every team at this event will have, at the very least, NHL-calibre goaltending – always a great equalizer, and something the Czechs talked about a lot on Friday, given the position could be a strength with underrated netminders Petr Mrazek and Michal Neuvirth to lean on.

Every game, starting on Saturday, will matter, given only half the teams will advance to next weekend's semi-finals.

But Team Canada hardly sounds concerned. The players know what they have. They believe it'll be enough because, well, that's the way it has been in big events of late.

"I think we can kind of do the same things," Doughty said, referring to how they controlled games in Sochi. "Obviously it's not going to be that easy. We made it look easy. It wasn't. But winning every single game, only letting in a couple goals the whole tournament, it was pretty spectacular. We don't expect to do the exact same thing. But we're going to try."

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