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Canes Set for World Championships

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes

Even though it might not be exactly what they had in mind, hockey season isn’t quite over for some in the Hurricanes organization.

For the second straight year, eight players will be representing Carolina at the IIHF World Championships, located this year in the Canadian cities of Quebec City and Halifax.  The games begin on May 2 and run until the gold medal game on May 18.

Canadians Eric Staal and Cam Ward will be joined by Ray Whitney as they attempt to defend their gold medals from last year’s tournament.  Also playing in the event are Tim Gleason (United States), Tuomo Ruutu (Finland), Niclas Wallin (Sweden), Dennis Seidenberg (Germany) and goaltending prospect Daniel Manzato (Switzerland).

This year’s event will be a special one for members of the Canes’ Canadian contingent, who all took part in a warm-up skate at the RecZone on Tuesday along with Seidenberg and injured captain Rod Brind’Amour, who is continuing to rehab the torn ACL that caused him to miss the team’s last 22 games.

While all three have represented their country in the past, they’ve never done so on their home turf.

“It’ll be a first for me and I’m sure that whole side of Canada will be pretty pumping, as well as the rest of the country,” said Staal.  “Anytime you put over the Canadian sweater in a hockey game it means something, especially in our own country, so everyone’s looking forward to it.”

“I think it will definitely be really exciting; obviously the atmosphere is going to be crazy knowing that it is in Canada,” said Ward.  “They love their hockey down there, they take a lot of pride in it, and it will be nice to have the home crowd on your side.”

Ward is relishing the chance to play for Canada at home this year, having barely missed out on the chance to do so back in 2003, when he was among the last cuts from Canada’s entry at the World Junior Championships, also in Halifax.

“I just could remember how disappointed I was to get cut from that, not only because it was the World Juniors but the fact that it was in Canada would have been a huge thrill,” he said.  “I’m excited and it’s nice to be able to go down with some teammates in Eric and Ray, and I’ll enjoy the experience.”

A strong showing at the World Championships can also go a long way to securing a spot on a bigger stage for the Winter Olympics, the next of which comes in 2010 in Vancouver.

Staal and Ward both made names for themselves with Hockey Canada by playing integral roles last year in Russia.  Staal earned 10 points in nine games while Ward fought off Dwayne Roloson to establish himself as his country’s first-choice goaltender, posting a 5-0 record with a 2.20 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Ward and Pascal LeClaire of Columbus, who finished second in the league with nine shutouts, are the only goaltenders named to Canada’s 15-man roster thus far.  More players will be named following the first round of the playoffs.

Ruutu and Seidenberg are veterans of their respective national team programs, as each will be appearing in his third World Championship.  Both also appeared in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, while Seidenberg also has the 2002 and 2006 Olympics on his resume.

On the flip side, this will be the first major senior tournament for Gleason, Wallin and Manzato.  Gleason and Manzato have each played in two World Junior Championships, while Wallin has never represented Sweden at a major tournament.

On way or another, Ruutu has made his presence known in the past two tournaments.  He scored six points in eight games last year to go along with 20 penalty minutes, while he went scoreless but led the tournament in penalty minutes with 49 in nine games in 2006.
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