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Neal, Michalek Help Teams to Undefeated Preliminary Round Records

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguins forward James Neal and defenseman Zbynek Michalek have each helped their respective teams to undefeated records in preliminary action at the 2011 IIHF World Championships in Kosice, Slovakia.

Neal has been an important facet of a Canadian forward corps. He’s helped them to two regulation wins and one overtime win to keep them at the top of Group B (tied for second in the tournament with eight points).

He ranked second in ice time among Canadian forwards with 18:05 minutes (trailing only linemate Rick Nash) in their 4-3 overtime win over Switzerland on Tuesday, recording four shots on goal.

Neal also notched an assist, earned a plus-3 rating and recorded three shots on goal in a 9-1 win over France on Sunday. He also led all Canadian forwards in ice time with 16:10 minutes in the contest despite enduring a quick turnaround after a tough journey to Slovakia – Neal left for Europe on April 29 following a Game 7 loss on April 27.

The Canadians will face the United States on Friday to kick off qualifying round action.

RELATED: Neal, Michalek Shine at World Championships >>

Michalek has helped anchor the blue line of a Czech Republic squad that earned a perfect 3-0 record in Group A, with all three wins coming in regulation for a tournament-best nine points out of the preliminary round.

After the Czechs topped Latvia 4-2 on April 30, Michalek made his tournament debut for his national team on Monday and helped them to a 6-0 win over Denmark. Michalek earned an assist on the opening goal just 2:29 into the contest and finished with a team-leading 22:03 minutes and a plus-3 rating.

He then skated for 19:12 minutes in a 2-1 victory over Finland on Wednesday to conclude preliminary action, with former Penguins captain Jaromir Jagr scoring the game-winning goal in the match.

Czech Republic is set to take on Slovakia on Friday to kick off qualifying round action.
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