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USA Hockey Selects Backes, Stempniak for Worlds

by Staff Writer / St. Louis Blues
ST. LOUIS - USA Hockey announced today that Blues forward Lee Stempniak and David Backes were named to the 2007 United States Men’s National Team for the IIHF Men’s World Championships to be held from April 27-May 13 in Moscow, Russia.

"(Stempniak) has had a tremendous year for St. Louis," said Mike Sullivan, head coach of the U.S. squad. "He's been a tremendous player for them all year long. He's deserving of this opportunity. This team was formed, it's been formed with the mindset of trying to go over there with the best group of players that will give us a chance to win a gold medal, and he certainly fits that bill."

Stempniak, 24, set career highs in all offensive categories this season in goals (27), assists (25) and points (52). He ranked first on the team with 27 goals and was second on the team with 52 points (27g, 25a). Stempniak was one of four Blues players to skate in all 82 games and played in his 100th career NHL game on Jan. 10 at New Jersey. He also played in the NHL’s YoungStars game this past season in Dallas. The West Seneca, New York native was originally drafted by the Blues in the fifth round, 148th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

"He's been a pretty darn good NHL player," said Brian Burke, GM for Team USA. "I think with Lee, he slipped under the radar. St. Louis made a great pickup to get him and he's turned into a quality NHL player. We're excited to have him."

Backes, 22, played in 49 games for the Blues this season, recording 23 points (10g, 13a) along with 37 penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut, while recording an assist on Dec. 19 at Pittsburgh. The Minneapolis, Minnesota native scored his first NHL goal on Dec. 21 vs. Los Angeles. He finished the season ranking second on the Blues with 92 hits. He was originally St. Louis’ second round selection, 62nd overall, in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

"(Backes) was a no-brainer for us," Burke said. "This is a guy that every single manager that saw him play this year felt that he had made a dramatic step forward as a player."

Team USA begins play in the 2007 IIHF World Championship on Friday, April 27 at 8:15 a.m. (St. Louis time) against Austria. The United States will play a pre-tournament game against Sweden on Wednesday, April 25, at the Globe Arena in Stockholm. Opening faceoff is set for 12 p.m. (St. Louis time).

Blues Head Coach Andy Murray will be behind the bench for Team Canada and defensemen Eric Brewer, Barret Jackman along with forward Jamal Mayers will represent Canada at the tournament.
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