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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Frans Nielsen

Forward discusses Team Europe's run at World Cup, joining Red Wings after tournament

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Team Europe and Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen:

TORONTO -- Frans Nielsen used five words to encompass the way every Team Europe player feels going into the best-of-3 final against Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"We're here," Nielsen said, "why not us?"

There are many reasons why Team Europe won't defeat Team Canada twice in three games, starting with Game 1 at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Nielsen and his teammates don't believe in a single one of them.

"We believe," Nielsen said. "I think we have a shot at it."

Nielsen, who is one of three players representing Denmark at the World Cup, spoke about Team Europe's chances, why the tournament means so much to him, and much more in an exclusive Q&A with following practice Monday.

Here are Five Questions with… Frans Nielsen:

Denmark has never finished better than eighth in the World Championship and has never played in the Olympics. Is this tournament your Olympics?

"Yeah, I guess it is. I mean, we missed the Olympics this year, which was a huge, huge disappointment. I think with eight NHL players and KHL players we expected to make it, but Slovenia took that spot [in the qualification round]. So, yeah, I guess it is. I've never been a part of a best-on-best tournament before so I was pumped when I heard about the news with the European team and found out I had a chance to represent this team. It's completely different too. Even if Denmark would have been here we wouldn't have a shot at doing anything. It would have just been a fun experience to get to play in a best-on-best tournament. Even the World Championship, we want to make the quarterfinals and that's always the goal when you get there, but in the end most important is don't get relegated. We have to have that in the back of our head because that would be a huge blow for Danish hockey if we went down. But I've never been a part of an international tournament like this, where you can go up against Sweden, Czech, Canada and know that you actually have a chance to win. That's been different. In the Worlds, Denmark would lose 5-2 to Sweden and we'd be like, 'OK, we played pretty good today.' This is different."

That said, is there an element of surprise for you that Team Europe has come together the way it has and is here in the final against Team Canada?

"Yes and no. I think everyone kind of just didn't believe in us. I think we did believe in ourselves because when I looked at the team I thought player-by-player we're just as good as Finland and Czech. I didn't think we deserved to be the team picked dead last. We got [Anze] Kopitar, [Zdeno] Chara, [Jaroslav] Halak, [Marian] Gaborik, [Marian] Hossa. I mean, we got Stanley Cup winners in that room, great leaders. Yeah, am I surprised at how fast we got together with everybody buying into the system? A little bit. But I started thinking about it too, I think we have one of the oldest teams in the tournament. It's a veteran team and people know what it takes. Everybody has played for a long time, which means everybody's defensive game is developed at their best. That's what makes us good, our defense."

Two part question: How do you gain the belief that you can beat Team Canada, and how do you beat Team Canada?

"I think we got a lot of belief the last time we played them (4-1 loss in the preliminary round). We definitely felt that it's a good team, but we had a feeling after that like, 'OK, it's not impossible.' Yeah they've got good goaltending, good [defensemen], but I think most of their forwards are offensive forwards that are used to playing a lot of time in the offensive end to create. I think the one weakness they have is if we can make them defend a lot. Of course, we've got to get the puck away from them, but if we can figure that out somehow and make them defend, that's what we've got to try and do. There aren't going to be any surprises out there. We've just got to go out and play, keep being solid defensively and hopefully Jaro is going to still make those saves when we need them. Then you never know, but for sure we have to make them defend and that's going to be the toughest challenge."

Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger has become a media darling here. He talks so well. He's eloquent. He delivers long, detailed, informative answers. He explains his thought process and what he's thinking. He's a media darling. What's he like in the room, in between periods? What is he like for you guys?

"I think he's the same as you just said. He's very positive. He talks a lot. He's a great motivational speak. He gets guys going and makes guys believe. That's his biggest strengths. Then of course he's smart. You know that. He put this team together. He had a vision for how we have to play and what makes us good. He saw it. Of course you have some good hockey brains around him in [assistants] Paul Maurice and Brad Shaw, but it's been fun being around him. It's fun to pick his brain. He's experienced a lot of stuff."

Whenever this is done you're going to leave here and go to Detroit, a brand new city and brand new team for you, where you're going to be replacing a legend in Pavel Datsyuk. Is there any trepidation, any nerves about that? Have you even had time to think about what's to come still?

"I had all summer. I haven't now because I'm doing this, but I'm really excited to go to Detroit. With the history, it's really a hockey market. Being a part of that, an Original Six team. Hopefully no one thinks I'm going to go in and do exactly what Pavel did. I don't think anyone can do that. But I'm really excited about the opportunity. It's a young team but a lot of skill and you're going to get to play with some good players there. Henrik Zetterberg is the one player I have always looked up to, so I'm really excited about getting the chance to play with him. Everywhere I meet people that played in Detroit they have nothing bad to say about it. They say it's first class, everything. Where the players live, they say it's the best. I'm really excited about it."

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