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From Minnesota to Mannheim

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers defenceman Taylor Chorney had represented Team USA in three previous international competitions - one U18 and two U20 -- but this will be his first men's tournament.
While the quest for the silver Stanley Cup continues to dominate the spring schedule of some NHLers, Oilers Ryan Potulny and Taylor Chorney are embarking on a quest for gold with a more exclusive group.

This Sunday, Potulny and Chorney will fly to Germany with the rest of Team USA for the 2010 World Hockey Championship. Predictably, both players are über excited.

"It probably sounds corny, but when you get a chance to wear your country's jersey it means a lot, especially in something like this," Potulny said. "A lot of people have done it at the junior level, but this is the real deal. I can't wait."

The experience is especially fresh for the 25-year-old Potulny, whose only previous Team USA appearance was in an under-18 summer tournament nearly 10 years ago; coincidentally, Germany also hosted that event.

For Chorney, this year's men's championship completes a natural progression through the international ranks, starting with the World Under-18 tournament in 2005 and World Juniors in 2006 and 2007. Although he admits he's "a little bit nervous" about playing the high-profile event, the 23-year-old blue-liner says his past experiences should come in handy.

"I think the familiarity with the international game, playing on the big sheet of ice and just the whole process with Team USA helps a little bit. But it's been a few years, so the excitement is there for sure. It'll be really fun."

After being contacted by Team USA representatives following the end of the Oilers season, the prairie boys started their tournament preparations by returning to their respective homes in Minnesota. The stress of the unsuccessful NHL campaign necessitated a few days of rest, but within a week, Potulny and Chorney embraced a return to the gym.

This week, both players took to the ice: Chorney at the University of North Dakota's Ralph Engestad Arena, and Potulny at University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena.

With nearly four weeks separating the end of the regular season and the start of the Worlds, game readiness could be a concern heading into the tournament. Not so, say the tourney rookies.

"You get it back pretty fast, especially when you play hockey as much as we do," Chorney explained. "As far as game situations, it'll be nice to play an exhibition game to ease us back into it."

The 2010 World Championship marks Ryan Potulny's first opportunity to play at the highest level of men's international competition.
Team USA's first test, an exhibition game vs. France on May 4, should not only help with tournament preparation but also provide some clarity, Potulny added.

"Guys are probably going to take on a different role [in the tournament], and until you get there and the roster is set, you don't know what kind of role the team will put you in," he explained. "The coaches will make sure everyone knows what they want out of them. Individually, you just want to go over there and have fun, play hard, and obviously come away with gold.

"Our expectations are to get a medal, and if you don't have high expectations like that, it's not even worth going over."

In addition to battling formidable opponents like Canada and Sweden, carrying the flag for America's proud hockey fans, and mastering the correct pronunciation of "Sprichst du englisch?" the young Oilers anticipate facing another challenge in Germany: adjusting to the European game and their rowdy fans. Thankfully, both players have experience to draw from.

"The Under-18 was unreal," Chorney recalled about his 2005 experience. "We played the Czechs in the semis and they were in our bracket so we had a big game against them earlier. It was rocking in there -- the building was going absolutely nuts. It's pretty hostile.

"It's different -- the whole lifestyle, routine, pre-game meal is different. But as far as hockey, I don't think it's too much different. It's probably not quite as physical, but it's still hockey."

"The people were pretty good to us when we were there," Potulny said about playing as a teenager in Germany. "But it's nice when you go with a big group so you can navigate things with people you know. My parents are going to go over for this tournament too, so it will be nice to have them there. Obviously you're there to win the gold but you have fun in your days off. It should be a great experience."

Chorney and Potulny won't be the only Oilers to visit Germany next month: Jordan Eberle has been invited to attend Canada's pre-tournament camp, while prospects Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Linus Omark, and Anton Lander will attend Sweden's camp.

Visit throughout May for regular updates on the Oilers accomplishments at the 2010 World Hockey Championships.
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