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The call of a nation

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Alexei Emelin received another vote of confidence from the brain trust of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia.

After being left out of the list detailing the first 16 players named to Team Russia for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey back on March 2nd, Emelin can breathe a little easier after hearing his name called as one of seven players added to bolster Russia’s roster on Friday morning.

“It’s always an honor to be picked for the national team,” said Emelin, “I’m very happy to have the opportunity to represent my country.”

The Habs hard-hitting rearguard joins a highly-skilled Russian squad that features a familiar face in fellow blue-liner Andrei Markov. While only time will tell if bench boss Oleg Znarok will pair the two long-time friends together, the chemistry between the two is certainly undeniable.

“He is such an experienced player – with his baggage in the NHL as well as in international tournaments like the World Championships and the Olympic Games.”, said Emelin about Markov, “His experience will be a big asset for our team during the tournament.”

Despite not hearing his name called during the first wave of selections, Emelin was confident that the World Cup remained a possibility given his strong performance at the recent World Hockey Championships in Russia this last May.

“I wanted to make the 23-man roster: that was my goal. The coaches didn’t name me in the first wave of sixteen players, and that is their choice. I kept working on what I could control, and I’m glad I did what it took to be named to the final roster.”

“I think my performance definitely helped them decide,” said Emelin when asked about this spring’s World Championships, “I wasn’t picked in the original 16 so I feel like the World Championships were a chance for me to show the Russian coaching staff what I could do and the style I can play. As a team, we didn’t accomplish what we had hoped, but I believe I played well.”

The Habs bruising blue-liner, who most recently added a bronze medal to his resume at the World Hockey Championships, will be suiting up for his 10th appearance on the international stage. While he’s become a mainstay on Russia’s blue-line, the bruising body-checker still swells with pride each time he receives the call to action.

“No tournament is alike. This will be a new tournament that I have never participated in, so I’m particularly excited about that. It will be a new challenge and I’m looking forward to living these new experiences.”

Emelin may be accustomed to giving his teammates an easier ride in practice, but come tournament time, all allegiances fly out the window. While the World Cup presents an opportunity for Emelin and Markov to reunite, the competition also offers a rare glimpse of fellow Canadien teammates going head-to-head.

“Such is the hockey world sometimes. In hockey, your friends are the people you share a dressing room with. We [my Montreal teammates and I] will be friends before the game and friends after the game, but on the ice, there is only the puck. No one has friends on the ice,” noted Emelin, who is set to square off against longtime teammates in Tomas Plekanec, Carey Price and Max Pacioretty during the World Cup, which runs from September 17 to October 1 in Toronto, Ontario.

Vincent Cauchy and Eugene Gusman are writers for

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