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McDavid set to return from injury in WJC exhibition

by Chris Stevenson

OTTAWA – Connor McDavid and Curtis Lazar can expect to see a lot of each for the next couple of weeks.

The Canadian forwards will be roommates during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship and will play on a line together Sunday when McDavid, projected to be a top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, returns to play for the first time since breaking a finger in a fight Nov. 11 while playing for the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.

Canada plays Sweden on Sunday at the Canadian Tire Centre in an exhibition game leading up to the start of the tournament Dec. 26.

McDavid, 17, had 16 goals and 51 points in 18 games for Erie. Lazar, 19, was loaned to the Canadian team by the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

"It's awesome," said McDavid of the chance to play with Lazar. "He plays in the NHL here in Ottawa and he's a pretty special player. To line up beside him is a pretty cool experience."

The line is expected to be filled out by Nick Ritchie, a 6-foot-2, 226-pound wing who plays for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL.

"Obviously he's a pretty big guy and he plays pretty physical," McDavid said of Ritchie. "He's great on the forecheck and he's got a great shot. Just kind of an all-round good player and I'm looking forward to playing with him.

McDavid said he expects there to be some rust on his game.

"Maybe a little bit. I'm not too sure. I think you guys [in the media] will judge that pretty good whether or not I play well or not so I'll leave that up to you guys," he said.

McDavid said the thing he missed most during his absence was feeling a part of a team.

"Being with the guys and battling and trying to win games. That's the thing you miss the most," he said. "Even though you're not playing games, you still practice with guys, but you're not exactly fully part of the team. Now you're finally getting back to playing games and you get back to being a full time part of the team."

Lazar, selected by the Senators in the first round (No. 17) of the 2013 NHL Draft, has played both center and wing this season with Ottawa and will play the wing Sunday.

He has one goal and six assists in 27 games with the Senators this season.

Lazar had three goals and four assists in seven games for Canada at the 2014 WJC.

"I'm shifting to the wing again tonight so I've got to adjust to that. Playing with Connor, it's going to be a lot of fun. There's going to be some hiccups here and there as there are always regardless of where you are playing. All I'm going to do is go out there and play Curtis Lazar hockey," he said.

Lazar said he's looking forward to both playing on a line with McDavid and Ritchie and rooming with McDavid.

"It's awesome. He's a great kid," he said, "so I'm looking forward to mentoring him and helping him relax and enjoy things. He's got a lot on his plate as everyone knows. He's a special hockey player. You've got Nick Ritchie there, he's a big body and he's going to be able to cause a lot of havoc out there and hopefully create some space for Connor to work."

Canada concludes its exhibition play Dec. 23 against Switzerland and opens the 11-day tournament Dec. 26 with a Group A game against Slovakia at Bell Centre in Montreal.

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