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Neal, Michalek Shine at World Championships

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins
UPDATED 12:55 PM...

Penguins forward James Neal wasted no time in making his mark for Team Canada, helping them to a 9-1 victory over France on Sunday in 2011 IIHF World Championship preliminary action in Kosice, Slovakia.

Neal notched an assist, earned a plus-3 rating and recorded three shots on goal in his World Championships debut. He also led all Canadian forwards in ice time with 16:10 minutes despite enduring a quick turnaround after a tough journey to Slovakia, as Neal left for Europe on April 29 following a Game 7 loss on April 27.

RELATED: Neal to Play for Canada at World Championships >>

Neal skated on a line with team captain Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche. The three combined for a plus-7 rating, with Nash adding a goal and an assist.

The Canadians have outscored their first two opponents by a 13-2 margin, as they topped Belarus 4-1 on April 29. Canada concludes preliminary round action on Tuesday when they take on Switzerland.

Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek also made an immediate impact with his national team at the World Championships, making his tournament debut for the Czech Republic this morning and helping them to a 6-0 win over Denmark. 

Michalek earned an assist on the opening goal just 2:29 into the contest. He finished with a team-leading 22:03 minutes and a plus-3 rating.

RELATED: Michalek to Skate for Czech Republic at World Championships >>

Michalek's brother Milan scored twice for the Czechs in the victory.

This is Zbynek Michalek’s fourth appearance in the World Championships, as he represented the Czech Republic in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He’s currently paired with Karel Rachunek, who currently plays for Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League.

The Czechs conclude preliminary action on Wednesday when they take on Finland.
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