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World Championship

Victor Hedman hopes for success with Sweden at World Championship

Lightning defenseman, Norris Trophy finalist aims to raise game on international stage

by Michael Langr / Correspondent

COLOGNE -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman has two goals at the 2017 IIHF World Championship in Cologne and Paris. He wants to win gold with Sweden and he wants to improve his game at the international level in hopes of getting the Lightning back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after they failed to qualify this year.

"I hope I can take something from here back to the League," Hedman said last week before the start of the tournament. "Certainly we want to be successful and we want to be the team that wins the last game of the year here, but at the same time for me, I want to be and impact player who plays big minutes and in all situations and who can be relied on, when you need a goal or you need to defend the goal. I'll be trying to play my game and I hope it can help me bring some experience from here to the NHL as well."

Hedman, 26, finished this season with a career-high 16 goals (tied for fifth among NHL defensemen), 56 assists (first) and 72 points (second). He was named a Norris Trophy finalist as the League's best defenseman along with Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

"It's a big honor for me, being in that company is something you can be proud of," Hedman said. "From the personal perspective it's been one of the most productive years for me, I've produced a lot of offense, but it's tough to look at that when you missed out the playoffs to really feel completely satisfied. But I took some steps, especially at the power play and the offensive part of the game. So I have to keep doing on that and keep working the way up the ladder."

Video: ARI@TBL: Hedman hustles to net breakaway chance

The winner will be announced at the 2017 NHL Awards at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on June 21 (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN), and Hedman is excited to share the stage with his fellow countryman in Karlsson.

"We did (talk about it)," Hedman said. "We are very close, we played together probably since we were 14, 15 or so in the national team at different camps. We've known each other for a long time. To be there with him, it's pretty unreal how much time has come by and how far we've come and be on that stage. We look forward to that, to have two Swedish players being nominated for an award like that is really cool."

Hedman and Karlsson are just a few of the Swedish defensemen in the NHL.

"We have a lot of guys that have been impact players and I don't know the reason why," Hedman said. "They are pretty much the same age as me. Erik, Oliver (Ekman-Larsson), John Klingberg, Jonas Brodin, a lot of guys who were born in 1990 and later. It's pretty surreal to look at it that way. It might be a bit of the Nick Lidstrom legacy -- for all of us, obviously we look up to Nick and what he's done for Swedish hockey and as a defenseman in general. Pretty good hero and idol to have for most of us growing up."

Hedman signed an eight-year contract with the Lightning during the offseason and hopes to have the Lightning back in the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015.

Video: TBL@OTT: Hedman drills home OT winner from Palat

"I feel pressure, I feel that obviously the team I play for, they trust me and they believe in what I can do, and I like that," Hedman said. "I want to be a player they can rely on, a player with responsibility. I like to play under pressure. Obviously I'm not going to sit back and relax having that (contract) extension. I'll keep working hard towards the goal that every hockey player has and that's to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup. That's what I'm going to work on and try to improve my game and being a difference maker."

But now it's about helping Sweden win its first World Championship since 2013 and first medal overall since the bronze at the World Championship in 2014. Sweden also won silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics but Hedman was surprisingly left off the roster. He has two silver medals from the World Junior Under-20 Championship and one bronze from the 2010 World Championship.

"It's obviously never fun to miss the (NHL) playoffs, but you have to put that aside now and focus on this," Hedman said. "We've got a great team and we're looking forward to make the most out of it and compete for the gold medal."

Results from Monday:

Canada 6, Belarus 0: Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) had two goals and an assist, Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) had one goal and two assists, and Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning) had two goals in a Group B preliminary round game at AccorHotels Arena in Paris. Calvin Pickard (Avalanche) made 13 saves.

Russia 6, Germany 3: Vadim Shipachyov (Vegas Golden Knights) and Nikita Kucherov (Lightning) each had two goals and Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks) had four assists for Russia in a Group A preliminary round game at Laxness Arena in Cologne. Dennis Seidenberg (New York Islanders) had two assists for Germany.

United States 4, Sweden 3: Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) scored two goals, Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres) and Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings) each had two assists and Jimmy Howard (Red Wings) made 39 saves for the United States in a Group A preliminary round game in Paris. Elias Lindholm (Hurricanes) scored two goals and Victor Hedman (Lightning) scored for Sweden.

Czech Republic 4, Finland 3: Radko Gudas (Philadelphia Flyers) scored, David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins) had two assists and Petr Mrazek (Red Wings) made 18 saves for the Czech Republic in a Group B preliminary round game in Cologne. Valtteri Filppula (Flyers) had a goal and an assist and Joonas Korpisalo (Columbus Blue Jackets) made 30 saves for Finland.

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