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Palmieri, Etem Shining for Team USA

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
By Ed Klajman

Special to AnaheimDucks.com


“I think my role has changed a little bit, coming in from last year’s tournament,” says Palmieri. "I was a little bit more of an energy guy and kind of a role player. But this year, I think Coach (Keith) Allain is kind of looking for a little more offence out of me and trying to be a leader out there and to lead a little bit in the locker room and help the guys who haven’t been through this before.”
BUFFALO – It was one of the most breathtaking moments of the World Junior Hockey Championship.

In Team USA’s first game in Buffalo, Anaheim’s Kyle Palmieri darted down the left wing, one-on-one against a Finnish defenseman. Using his backhand, Palmieri slid the puck between his own legs, had a blurring, two-step burst of speed to glide past the defender, picked the puck up on his forehand, and held it while sliding across the front of the net to get the goalie sprawling helplessly on his stomach.

Unfortunately for Palmieri, with the puck rolling on edge, his shot just grazed the side of the net, spoiling his chance at all-time classic of a goal.

“Those kinds of things (the missed opportunity) go through your head when you try to go to sleep at night,” said the 19-year-old, a first round pick by the Ducks in 2009. “After that, I think it was one of those things that it’s a new night and there’s a new team that we’re playing and I knew I just had to go out there and take some chances offensively and hopefully produce a little bit.”

The next game against Slovakia he produced plentifully, notching two goals in a 6-1 rout. And after also adding a couple of assists in subsequent games, the New Jersey native has firmly established himself as one of the best offensive players in the tournament.

He credits the strong performance to being a World Juniors veteran, with this being his second straight appearance on the national team. “I think my role has changed a little bit, coming in from last year’s tournament,” said the 5-11, 191-pound right winger. I was a little bit more of an energy guy and kind of a role player. But this year, I think Coach (Keith) Allain is kind of looking for a little more offence out of me and trying to be a leader out there and to lead a little bit in the locker room and help the guys who haven’t been through this before do what it takes to hopefully win a gold medal.”

Palmieri said it’s difficult to compare his debut with the Ducks to his time spent wearing the Team USA jersey.

“Getting a chance to play with the Ducks was one of my dreams and the opportunity to play at that level really tells you a lot about you as a player and what it takes,” said Palmieri, who spent 10 games with the Ducks this year (scoring a goal in his NHL debut) before being sent to Syracuse of the AHL. “Here, we come and we represent our country, and as a team we’re looking to repeat as gold-medal winners, and so far it’s been pretty exciting.”

Palmieri added that it’s been a lot of fun to spend time with fellow Duck draft pick Emerson Etem.

“So far he’s been having a good year and he’s one of those guys that I could definitely see playing with the Ducks in the next couple of years. I think he’s a great player. And he’s a great guy off the ice.”

“There’s a lot that I can take away from this. It’s a huge honor," Etem says, "Just cherish every moment you get because it doesn’t happen very often. The speed of the game, it’s just that much higher than juniors and everyone’s skilled here just like the pros.”
Etem and Palmieri became familiar with each other during Ducks training camp back in September, and as teammates for Team USA, they're getting the chance to show off the skills that made them both first round picks by Anaheim (Etem being the 29th overall selection last year). But after making it through the preliminary round undfeated in a game Etem said, "We were a little lackadaisical and a little big-headed."

Etem, who has scored one goal in the tournament so far, said earlier in the tournament, “It’s whatever it takes to win. I think a lot of guys have changed their style of game and done it for the good of the team and I think that’s why we’re so successful. I’m a two-way guy at Medicine Hat (his junior team) but at the same time I’ve really got to focus on my defensive play (here).”

Etem and Palmieri are actually locker room stall mates in Buffalo, and Etem has been getting some insights into what it’s like to play for the Ducks. “We’re able to definitely get to know each other a lot better than we already have, and we have some good times together. He’s definitely shown me the ropes, and what goes on down in Anaheim. He’s just a great guy. He’s a great player and I can learn a lot from him.”

Etem, a six-foot, 190-pound forward who has 21 goals and 14 assists in 32 games in Medicine Hat this season, added that it’s “special to put on the red, white and blue.

“There’s a lot that I can take away from this. It’s a huge honor – just cherish every moment you get because it doesn’t happen very often. The speed of the game, it’s just that much higher than juniors and everyone’s skilled here just like the pros.”

Later this week, he’ll return to Medicine Hat, with an even greater hunger to make the Ducks roster one day.

“It’s always in the back of your mind. You’ve been wanting to play professional hockey all your life and you want to think the sooner the better but at the same time they know what’s best for you and your development and that’s the mindset I’m going with. It seems to be working out for me right now. I think I’m developing and I feel more mature as a player on and off the ice.”
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