Team USA left wing David Booth
has played with a variety of linemates in the first three games of the 2008 World Championships, but that uncertainty is a small price to pay for the right to play against the superpowers of the hockey world.
Booth, who enjoyed a breakout season with the Florida Panthers
before that team fell nine points short of a Stanley Cup Playoff berth, has seen less ice time with Team USA than he did with his club team, where he averaged a little more than 16 minutes per game. But such sacrifices are fine, says Booth.
“Getting less ice time is something that comes with these international tournaments,” Booth said. “We have four great lines and most of these guys are used to playing on their team’s first or second line. Everyone on the team can’t be a first- or second-line player. When you have so much depth on a team you have to accept the role you’re given and I’m fine with that.”
Booth started the tournament playing with Jeff Halpern
of the Tampa Bay Lightning
and Jason Pominville
of the Buffalo Sabres
. After Halpern was injured and left the tournament Tuesday, American coach John Tortorella moved Booth to a line with Calder Trophy candidate Patrick Kane
and newly added New York Rangers
center Brandon Dubinsky
, who centered Jaromir Jagr
in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
With all these changing line combinations, it would seem chemistry would be hard to come by, but that’s not so, according to Booth. He says lines jell rather quickly, particularly when composed of elite players.
“They are all good players,” Booth said “They all see the ice well, which is a tremendous help when you are trying to get used to playing with each other. It only takes a couple practices or games to get used to playing with new linemates.”
After playing a grueling 82-game season it would be easy for many players to pack it in and decide to not participate in the World Championships, but Booth was excited to get going again.
“It started with a week of training camp in Portland,” Booth said. “I started to get my timing back then and then we had a couple games against Slovenia, Latvia and then a big game against Canada.”
Unfortunately for Booth and the Americans, they fell to the Canadians in a wild 5-4 game Tuesday in the last preliminary round game. Canadian left wing Dany Heatley
, of the Ottawa Senators
, scored with 47 seconds remaining in the game to win it. The two teams could meet again in the medal round of the tournament.
Booth has experienced victory against the Canadians back in the 2004 World Junior Championships. That time, it took some luck for the U.S. to oust the Canadians as Canadian goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
’s clearing attempt hit a defensemen and bounced back into his own net for the game-winning goal in the championship game. It was the Americans first gold medal at the World Junior Championship level.
Booth sees similarities between the 2008 World Championship squad and the 2004 team. Booth believes the 2008 team can keep up with the Canadians.
“In that tournament we took one game at a time and we had a good core of guys,” Booth said. “I think we have a good group of guys here, as well. I think we need to come together and build some chemistry if we are going to have success in the later rounds.”
Booth realizes that beating Canada will be a lot more difficult this time around because of the stiffer competition in this tournament when compared to the World Junior Championships.
"When you have so much depth on a team you have to accept the role you’re given and I’m fine with that." -- David Booth
“In the World Championships, there are NHL players,” Booth said. “The players are stronger, faster, quicker and more skilled. On both Canada and the U.S., you have guys that play major roles for their teams; so both teams have tremendous depth.
“I think the U.S.-Canada rivalry is great and the Canadians always put together such a great team. We want to prove the world that we can beat Canada because they always have the best players, but we want to prove that we can play with them.”
The Americans certainly proved that they can play with the Canadians in Tuesday’s game, erasing a 3-0 deficit to tie the game at 4-4 before Heatley’s last-minute heroics.
Even though Booth is teammates with Team Canada defenseman Jay Bouwmeester
and Finnish center Olli Jokinen
in Florida, he relishes the fact that he is pitted against his teammates in this tournament.
“It’s fun to play against my Florida teammates,” Booth said. “Even though we are teammates during the season I still get to see them and like to play against them and that’s part of what makes this tournament so much fun to play in.”
Booth, who scored the fourth goal in a 5-1 win against Slovenia in America’s second game of the tournament, understands his role and will be a key cog for his team.