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Lightning Go International

by Brian Breseman / Tampa Bay Lightning
Many players, prospects and staff will temporarily trade in their Lightning allegiances this week when the puck drops on the 2009 IIHF World Championships in Switzerland on Friday. Tampa Bay will be well represented both on and off the ice.

Lightning stars Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos will both represent Team Canada at the tournament. A native of Laval, Quebec, St. Louis will be playing in his second career World Championship after making his debut in Canada in 2008. He recorded two goals and 10 points in nine games en route to winning the Silver Medal.

St. Louis is not void of any other international experience though, as he also represented Canada in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games and at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. In international play combined he has six goals and 17 points in 21 games. In addition to the Silver Medal at the 2008 World Championships, St. Louis also won gold with Canada at the 2004 World Cup.
Martin St. Louis, Team Canada

Stamkos is making his first World Championship appearance after having a strong finish to the NHL season for the Lightning, setting the franchise record for goals by a rookie in a season with 23. This is not his first international appearance for Hockey Canada though as he participated in both the 2008 World Junior Championships and the 2007 World U-18 Championships. He had a goal and six points in seven games during the 2008 World Juniors, winning the Gold Medal, and recorded two goals and 10 points in six games during the 2007 U-18 Championships.

Goaltender Karri Ramo is expected to get some playing time for Finland as he battles for the starting job with the Nashville Predators’ Pekka Rinne, 26. Juso Riksman, 32, who plays for Jokerit in the Finnish Elite League, will also be part of the battle for playing time. Ramo played in 24 games with the Lightning in 2008-09, posting a .895 save percentage and a 3.35 goals-against average. He set career highs in both saves with 676 and shots faced with 756. Ramo was busy in the Tampa Bay net, facing 30 shots or more in 15 of his 19 starts. Regardless of who wins the job, he will be the youngest goaltender on the roster at 22 years old.

Lightning new-comer Martins Karsums wraps up the list of players to finish the season with Tampa Bay participating in the tournament. The Lightning acquired Karsums from the Boston Bruins, along with Matt Lashoff, at the trade deadline. After joining Tampa Bay he went on to record a goal and five points in 18 games, including his first NHL goal. He totaled a goal and six points in 24 games in 2008-09 with the Lightning and Bruins.

There won’t be too many names people in North America will recognize on the Latvian squad as there are only four players on the roster who spent the 2008-09 season with a team on the continent. Among those are Karlis Skrastins of the Florida Panthers, Oskars Bartulis of the Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL) and Janis Sprukts of the Rochester Americans (AHL).

Also representing their countries are Lightning prospects Johan Harju, a 2007 draft pick, and Vasily Koshechkin, a 2002 draft pick. Harju will make his international debut for Team Sweden after completing the 2008-09 with Lulea of the Swedish Elite League where he set career highs with 27 goals and 49 points. He also had four goals and five points in five post season games.

Koshechkin, a big man at 6-foot-6, will be making his second appearance for Russia at the World Championships. He played in three games at the 2007 IIHF World Championships, posting a 2.67 goals-against average and a .879 save percentage while earning a Bronze Medal. Koshechkin had one of his best years as a professional in 2008-09 with Lada Togliatti of the newly formed KHL, posting a 1.65 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in 43 games played. He also posted a 1.93 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage in five playoff games.

Off the ice, the Lightning sends Video Coach Nigel Kirwan and Head Equipment Manager Ray Thill to represent the United States in their second consecutive World Championship.

Lightning fans can see all the games and follow their favorite players online at Stamkos and Kirwan will also be sending diaries for fans to read on throughout the tournament.

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