By Nick Butler

USA will be in a strong group as they begin the defence of their ice sledge hockey Paralympic title in SochiOctober 29 - America face a tough task if they are to successfully defend their Winter Paralympic ice sledge hockey title at Sochi 2014 following the announcement today of the preliminary groups.

The draw was made following last week's final qualifying tournament in Turin which saw South Korea, Italy and Sweden secure the final three places for the eight team tournament.

After beating Japan to win gold in Vancouver in 2010 the United States have been seeded second for Sochi and will face hosts Russia, South Korea and Italy. 

Led by forwards Josh Pauls and goaltender Steve Cash they will pose a strong challenge once again but will certainly also have a target on their backs.

In particular the presence of the host nation, the third seeds, Russia will pose a big challenge.

Russia have never won a medal in the sport but after taking a bronze medal at the 2013 World Championships and, with the home crowd behind, will be confident about making an impact this time.

Following their victory at the qualification tournament South Korea will be dark horses at the Winter ParalympicsFollowing their 3-2 shootout victory at the qualification tournament in Turin last week South Korea will be dark horses for success at the Winter Paralympics

Group A will be led by Canada, the world number one seeds and reigning world champions, who will face Norway, Czech Republic and Sweden.

After ending the five year stranglehold of the US at the World Championships earlier this year, they will hoping for similar success at the Paralympics after finishing a disappointing fourth at Vancouver 2010.

Their main challenge is expected to come from Norway, who have won a medal at every Paralympic competition since it made its debut at Lillehammer 1994 and beat Canada in the bronze medal match in Vancouver.

A veteran Czech squad, seeded fourth, will also mount a stern challenge, while the remaining team in the group, Sweden, will be similarly experienced having competed at every Games.

The complete schedule of games will be revealed closer to the time of the Paralympics, which are due to start on March 7.

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