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Krug Taking Pride in First International Experience

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - Torey Krug had never donned the red, white and blue "USA" jersey until he hit the ice as a member of the U.S. Men's National Team at the end of April.

The team was playing an exhibition game in Austria to gear up for the 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship, taking place in the Czech Republic through May 17.

"It's very special to me," said Krug, checking in with from Ostrava, Czech Republic on May 7 via phone. "This is the first time I've ever been able to wear these colors and I take a lot of pride."

"A lot of friends and family back home are proud of me and the situation that I've been blessed with and it's just been a great experience, and I'm looking forward to making sure it ends the right way."

Through four games, the Livonia, Mich. native had two goals and three assists for five points with a plus-4 rating and 13 shots on goal. Both of his goals came on the power play, and both demonstrated his arsenal of a shot. Krug had at least a point in each of the four games, as well as the exhibition game. He averaged 21:49 in ice time for the U.S., behind only defensemen Justin Faulk and Seth Jones.

He has been tasked with a great deal of responsibility, playing top minutes against top players, and seeing time on the penalty kill in addition to his usual role on the power play - all while adjusting to the larger ice surface overseas.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said. "I think there are a lot of challenges that it presents, specifically when you gap up on players and opposing forwards have a lot of speed, so it's hard to take away their time and space when they have a lot of speed coming at you and it's tough to be in the right position defensively because there's a lot more space for guys to get lost."

"So it presents a good challenge. It's a lot of fun, specifically playing on the top pair against the other teams' top players is always something that I try to embrace. There's a few times in Boston where the matchups are as such, and it's also a challenge you want to be presented with. It shows that the coaching staff trusts and that you're going to be able to play a lot, and I'm penalty killing here, which is a little bit different, because I don't do that much in Boston as well."

"The only word that I can use to describe it is that it's fun - the hockey is a little bit more skill set and that kind of plays right into my wheelhouse."

Krug has certainly made an impact for Team USA from the outset. The U.S. had their best start in the tournament since 1997, going undefeated for the first three games, before suffering their first loss to Belarus, 5-2, on May 7.

"We have a good group of guys here. It's a great mixture of young guys and some experience as well and the tournament is an absolute blast to play in," said the blueliner.

"You take a lot of pride in putting on the jersey of USA and I think it's just important that we go out there with the right attitude every single night and make sure we don't get too far ahead of ourselves. I think the best part of the whole experience has been the group of guys."

The roster includes NHL players, a handful of college players and two players each from the AHL and KHL, with the average age around 24 years old.

"We have a great group of young guys that bring a lot of energy and their skating legs and it provides that youthful energy for our team, much like at times we've seen in Boston this year," said the 24-year-old. "So it's just a good group of guys, the older guys as well that maybe have not played internationally before, but they have a lot of NHL experience and they bring that to the table."

Before heading overseas, Krug skated with current U.S. teammate Jack Eichel - the Boston University center highly touted heading into this year's draft - in Boston to stay in shape, so there was some familiarity there.

"That kid is a very impressive hockey player. He's got a lot of skill, big, strong guy that's very hard to move off the puck and he's extremely calm with the puck," said Krug. "He reminds me a lot of the way David Krejci plays with the puck and how it seems like he's just gliding out there, so he's an impressive hockey player, he's a great kid and he plays an important role on this team."

At the time of the conversation, Krug and Team USA had three more preliminary round games on the docket against Denmark (May 8), Slovenia (May 10) and Slovakia (May 12) before the quarterfinals begin on May 14.

"The atmosphere is pretty incredible," Krug said, of fans packed into CEZ Arena for the games. "You know, I made sure to come over and watch Slovakia play last night, because I heard fans were incredible and it's definitely an experience out here."

"There's a lot of whistles and horns and chants and they're doing the wave, much like a baseball game or something like that, so it's just an incredible experience."

As a first-timer on the international stage, Krug has been taking advantage of not only the experience on the ice, but also the opportunity to see a new city.

With eight teams split into two groups for the preliminary round of the tournament, the games are taking place in two different cities. Krug and Team USA's home base is Ostrava, with the other group (that includes Loui Eriksson and Team Sweden) playing their games in Prague.

Ostrava is located near David Pastrnak's hometown of Havirov.

"It's a unique city," said Krug. "I'm pretty sure it's 10-15 minutes away from where Pastrnak's from, so he kind of described to me what it's like and reading up on it, people say it's like a European Pittsburgh, so that kind of describes the type of town that it is and it's a really awesome atmosphere."

With the length of the tournament running from May 1-17 (if the U.S. makes it to the medal around), Krug and his teammates will have plenty more time to take in their surroundings.

"The fans drive from their respective countries and they take a lot of pride in cheering on their team and the rink is packed every single day," he said.

"There's four teams staying in the same hotel, we eat at the same cafeteria, or restaurant, and then we walk over to the rink. We're literally across the street from the rink, so it's definitely a different feeling than playing in the NHL, where you're getting bused around everywhere and gourmet meals and things as such, so it's a lot of fun."

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