MONTREAL - With one of the most culturally diverse dressing rooms in the NHL, it should come as no surprise that the Canadiens will be well represented at the 2007 World Hockey Championships set to kick-off April 27 in Moscow.
Five Habs will pack their bags for the Worlds, including Tomas Plekanec (Czech Republic), Andrei Markov (Russia), Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia), as well as Mark Streit and David Aebischer (Switzerland).
Streit is right at home in international play. The Canadiens' resident jack-of-all-trades will again be the cornerstone of the Swiss blue line in this his 10th World Championship appearance. With already 61 tournament games to his credit, the longtime Swiss captain will look to surpass the fourth-place finish he and Aebischer helped lead Switzerland to in their first go-round in 1998.
Speaking of Aebischer, he will be making his fifth appearance at the Worlds. At last year's tournament, Aebischer went 2-2-2 with a 2.67 goals against average in six games. With Martin Gerber still busy with the Senators, look for Aebischer to again shoulder much of the load for the Swiss.
If you thought Halak proved to be a godsend for the Canadiens once Cristobal Huet was lost to injury this season, imagine how his native Slovakia feels about him being between the pipes for the World Championship. With offensive fire power in abundance over the years, goaltending has long been the Slovaks' Achilles heel. Armed with international experience from the 2004 and 2005 World Junior Championships, the soon-to-be 22-year-old will look to finally put an end to his country's crease concerns.
After growing up idolizing national heroes like Jaromir Jagr and Dominik Hasek as they led the Czech Republic to the pinnacle of international hockey, Plekanec is now part of the next generation of Czech players. Having twice worn the colors of his homeland at the World Juniors, winning gold in 2001, Plekanec made his World Championship debut last spring in Latvia. With three goals in six games, Plekanec helped lead the Czechs to a silver medal as he now looks to climb one step higher on the podium this time around in Moscow.
Whenever world hockey supremacy is on the line, Markov can always expect his phone to ring. The anchor of the Russian blue line, Markov earned his stripes on the world stage with participations in the World Juniors, World Championships, World Cup of Hockey and the Olympics on his well-stocked international resume. On the hardware front, Markov owns a gold and silver medal from the World Juniors and a bronze medal from the 2005 World Hockey Championship.
Playing on home soil, Markov would like nothing more than to end up atop the podium. But, in order to get there, he'll have to get past his teammates first.
Manny Almela is a writer for canadiens.com