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Duchene Always Honored To Represent Canada

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

If he's not wearing a Colorado Avalanche sweater, it doesn't take much to convince Matt Duchene to don the maple leaf and his country's red and white colors.

Every time he puts on the Canada jersey, it's an honor for the Haliburton, Ontario native. That will especially be true for the next two weeks as Duchene competes for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic.

"It’s always an opportunity I jump at. I always want to, when I get the call, go put the jersey on," Duchene said of playing for his home nation. "Another great opportunity. I think we’re going to have a great team, and it’s special to be sharing it with three other teammates."

The 24-year-old center will be joined on this year's squad with fellow Avs Tyson Barrie, Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O'Reilly.

Duchene is the veteran of the Colorado quartet when it comes to representing his nation on the international stage. He has played in three previous world championships and in the 2014 Olympics, helping Canada win its second consecutive gold medal at the Winter Games.

"I know exactly what to expect," Duchene said. "This will be my fourth time. I just know the tournament really well now, and hopefully that experience will help out the team."

While playing internationally has given the forward a chance to travel and see the world, he doesn't view his trips to Europe for hockey as a paid vacation. He approaches and prepares for each contest like he does the 82 games during the NHL regular season.

"For me, I think any time I’m playing hockey, it’s a work trip," Duchene said. "You enjoy the days off and the time off and you can relax, but hockey comes first and that’s the way I’ve always handled it."

However when it comes to playing for a country that has such a rich tradition and deep talent like Canada, there is always a target on your back. Each opposing nation seems to give its best against the Canadians, and that has definitely been the case when it comes to the World Championship.

Currently ranked No. 4 in the world by the IIHF, Canada hasn't won gold at the annual event since 2007 and hasn't medaled since 2009 (silver).

"It’s a tough tournament because all of those European teams are over there right now skating together and a lot of them are from European countries," Duchene said before traveling to Europe last weekend. "They play in the European leagues, and they’re able to really get some good chemistry and play together in other events."

Despite the limited time training with teammates and the bulls eye always aimed at the squad, Duchene views Canada's lack of podium appearances in recent years as a good thing heading into the 2015 competition.

"I think the nice part about this tournament is we haven’t won it in so long and there’s so many other distractions going on back here (in North America)," Duchene said. "We don’t really feel pressure to win, which is a good thing. It doesn’t change how we feel about winning; we want to win.

"It’s always gold or bust when you put on the Canadian jersey. We expect to win … ourselves. We expect ourselves to put on a good showing. We have a great roster and a team that can definitely win that tournament, so we want to make sure we live up to that."

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