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World Cup

Lidstrom says Hedman has World of talent

Raves about Lightning, Team Sweden defenseman

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA, Fla. -- Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom can't help but smile when asked about the development of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.

Lidstrom remembers playing for the Detroit Red Wings with Scotty Bowman and gaining confidence as his playing time increased and he sees Lightning coach Jon Cooper doing the same with Hedman.

"I got more and more confidence from playing a lot," Lidstrom said. "And [Bowman] was the one that gave it to me. He gave me the responsibility and eventually he didn't say anything at all to me because he knew that end of the ice was taken care of."

Hedman, 24, who didn't make Team Sweden for the 2014 Winter Olympics, will be representing his country at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. He will be joined on Team Sweden by Anton Stralman, his defensive partner with Tampa Bay. The tournament will be held from September 17 to October 1.

Lidstrom said Hedman's game took off during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and has continued to rise this season.

"The way he played in the regular season, he took that into the playoffs and took it to another level," Lidstrom said. "He just kept getting better and better. He took some huge steps last season."

Lidstrom said he remembers meeting Hedman before the 2009 NHL Draft, when Tampa Bay picked him in the first round (No. 2). The two haven't crossed paths often since, but Lidstrom was able to catch up with Hedman and Stralman while scouting for Team Sweden during his trip to Tampa in mid-February.

"They play so well together," Lidstrom said. "[Stralman] is a smart player. He makes the right moves with the puck. They have complimentary styles and they have developed chemistry."

Hedman said that playing in a tournament like the World Cup is going to be exciting for him and everyone involved.

"It's going to be the best of the best," Hedman said. "It's going to be fun tournament for everyone watching and playing. It's a great way to start to season. It's going to be a lot of tough games but that's what we play hockey for, to play in events like this."

Hedman said he doesn't think about being left off the Olympic team two years ago, but he was able to use the disappointment to his advantage.

"The Olympics was two years ago and I haven't really [thought] about it," Hedman said. "Obviously you're always disappointed when you don't make teams and you don't get to represent your country on a higher level, but I was able to use that was motivation going forward."

Hedman is anchoring the Lightning's blue line much like Lidstrom did for the Red Wings during his 20 seasons in the League. Lidstrom won the Stanley Cup four times with Detroit, including three championships with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

Lidstrom said his former teammate understands the value of having an anchor defenseman and what they can do for a team.

"Well not only do you have a guy that can bring the puck up the ice and make plays, but you also have a guy that can match up against the top lines in the League," Lidstrom said. "But you have to be responsible defensively. You look for guys like that and you keep them."

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