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Seguin scoring, having fun with Canada in Prague

by Michael Langr

PRAGUE -- Tyler Seguin loves to play here.

He scored his first NHL goal at Prague's O2 Arena against the Phoenix Coyotes as a Boston Bruins rookie in the beginning of the 2010-11 season, and he has eight goals in eight games in the building at the 2015 IIHF World Championship, including a hat trick that helped Canada win 9-0 against Belarus on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

"Someone's blessing me here in this arena," said Seguin, the Dallas Stars forward who is tied with Sweden's Filip Forsberg (Nashville Predators) for the tournament lead in goals. "For me personally, I started this tournament not getting the bounces and I'm obviously more happy when they go in. I like scoring goals, that's one of my jobs. And when they're going in, you feel better."

Canada has won gold at consecutive Olympics, but hasn't been successful at the IIHF World Championship in recent years. Its game Saturday against the host Czechs will be its first semifinal since 2009.

"It's big," Seguin said. "We knew last five years we lost the quarterfinals, so we wanted to come out with a good start last game. We're happy to get over that. We wanna keep things going here and stay consistent with our play."

Staying consistent has been no problem so far for Canada, which scored 49 goals in winning all seven of its preliminary-round games.

"I think we're getting better as a team and we're getting closer every day and I'm happy about that," Seguin said. "We're not the team that started (training camp) back in Vienna, Austria, some 20 days ago. We've gotten better every day, we've grown as a team, we've come together and we're trying to continue to do that."

Seguin is pleased with the way Canada has improved not only the offensive part of its game, but in the defensive zone as well.

"We have a lot of guys that can score, but I think we've been focusing on our defensive zone a bit more," he said. "When we went in that Sweden game down 3-0 quick, we knew we've got things to work on and we keep doing that."

Canada defeated Czech Republic and Sweden in the preliminary round, but the semifinal game in front of what will be a wild, loud crowd probably will be the toughest test they will face since the start of the tournament.

"We've played them before, we know they are a good team, and it's gonna be a challenge. Obviously with the crowd here and the atmosphere, it's gonna be a lot of fun," said Seguin, who saw the Czechs' 5-3 quarterfinal win against Finland on Thursday during dinner with his teammates at the Zizkov Television Tower restaurant in Prague. "I was watching the game and the whole place where I was eating dinner was chanting Jagr's name. So I started chanting too, and I took a video of it. Everyone: 'Jaaaromir Jaaagr.'"

"It's pretty surreal here, just shows how much the fans out here love hockey. That makes it a really fun place to play, even though we're the enemy out here."

Seguin is enjoying his time in Prague. Unlike other Canada players, he has had no family support during the Worlds, though he's expecting two of his friends for the last weekend.

"It's an awesome city and the sightseeing here is pretty incredible. Food is great, the people have been very friendly, and it's a great place to play," said Seguin, who, after finishing seventh in the NHL with 77 points in 2014-15, frequently has been recognized on the streets by Czech hockey fans.

"Lots of people are showing their support. Lot of people are saying, 'Hi, can I have a picture?' And then they're saying that they hope Czech beats us. The fans are staying loyal, it's a fun place to play in front of this crowd, all the sold-out games. Especially against the Czechs. I'm looking forward to the (semifinal) game."

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