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Kindl looks for Czech roster spot

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Jakub Kindl had a solid first half of the season, registering a goal, seven assists and a plus-8 rating. (Photo by Getty Images)
DETROIT – The Red Wings are scheduled to clear out their lockers Tuesday, but one of them got a head-start on packing up his equipment at Joe Louis Arena.

In the midst of the WWE setting up prior to its live televised “Raw SuperShow” at The Joe Monday night, defenseman Jakub Kindl gathered his belongings before heading to the airport to catch a flight home to the Czech Republic.

Kindl hopes to play for his country in next month’s IIHF World Championship, which will be co-staged in Finland and Sweden. Currently, Kindl is the only NHL player among the 11 defensemen on the Czech roster, however he must win a spot at training camp this week in Brno, near the Austrian border.

“It’s totally different hockey,” said Kindl, who played in a career-high 55 NHL games this season. “We have the international tryouts this week and the exhibition games are this weekend back home; I’ll meet the team there. They’ve already been practicing for a few weeks, so I’ll try to play Thursday, Friday and Saturday.”

Kindl did not play in the Wings’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators, who advanced in the Stanley Cup playoffs after eliminating Detroit in six games. It’s the second straight year that the 6-foot-2 former first-round draft pick sat-out the postseason.

For the second season, Kindl platooned in the Wings’ sixth defensive spot, first battling veteran Mike Commodore in the first half, then Kyle Quincey, who was acquired in a three-way trade with Colorado and Tampa Bay prior to the league’s trade deadline.

The first half of the season was much more advantageous for Kindl, who had a goal with seven assists and was a plus-8 in 32 games. But after New Year’s, his production plummeted to no goals and five assists with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. Certainly, the oblique injury that he suffered late in the season played a factor, forcing Kindl to miss seven games in March.

Now, the 25-year-old would like to erase memories of the last month and impress Czech coach Alois Hadamczik, whom he once played for at the junior level.

“I think I have a chance,” Kindl said, “and I’ll do whatever it takes to make it.”

In recent years the Wings haven’t sent players to the World Championship for one simple reason: they were toiling deep in the playoffs, particularly in 2007, ’08 and ’09. Last spring a few players – including Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Ericsson – played for Russia and Sweden, respectively, after the Wings lost to San Jose in the Western Conference semifinals for the second straight year.

This spring, more Wings and their prospects are expected to compete in the 17-day tournament, including Swedes Ericsson and Henrik Zetterberg, and Slovakian Tomas Tatar. It’s also believed that defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forward Johan Franzen are close to deciding if they will participate.

The 16 teams are divided into two groups that will play preliminary round games in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden, from May 4-15. Two quarterfinals will be played at both venues before the semifinals and finals move to Hartwall Arena in Helsinki on May 19-20.

In Helsinki will be the host country along with the USA, Canada, Switzerland, Slovakia, Belarus, France and Kazakhstan. Competing in Stockholm will be Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, Latvia, Denmark and Italy.

Playing in the World Championship will be Kindl’s first international experience in five years when he played in the 2007 under-20 World Championship in Sweden.

“I don’t have a lot of expectations because I don’t know what to expect, but I’m just looking forward to this, it’s nothing that I’ve done before,” he said. “It’s totally new for me and it’s been a long time since I played on the bigger ice. It will be different system, different players, different coaches, it will be difficult.”

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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