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Pav, Big E accept World invitations

by Michelle Crechiolo / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Now that the Stanley Cup playoffs are over for the Red Wings, two of them have decided to compete in the world championships, which began last Friday in Germany. Four other Red Wings declined the chance to represent their countries.

The Wings’ second-round exit from the Stanley Cup playoffs means that Pavel Datsyuk (Russia) and Jonathan Ericsson (Sweden) are flying to Germany, where they’ll join their national teams in preliminary-round action.

Jimmy Howard (USA), Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom (Sweden), and Valtteri Filppula (Finland) all declined offers, mainly for maintenance reasons.

Due to their success in the past, Wings players do not usually have the opportunity to participate in the world championships. The tournament is generally held in April or May, which typically coincides with the later rounds of the NHL’s playoffs.

“I’m looking forward to it, to have a chance,” Datsyuk said, who also represented Russia in the 2010 Vancouver Olympic last February. “Of course I want to play hockey. I’m a hockey player. I love my job. I’m happy to play. I have time now.”

Ericsson’s decision was multi-faceted. He’ll gain valuable experience playing at the international level for the first time, and he’ll also get a chance to play with his older brother Jimmie, who plays in the Swedish Elite League.

“It was easy,” Ericsson said. “I’ve never played on the big national team before, so it’s going to be fun, I think. And another more fun reason is my brother is playing, too. … It’s pretty special.”

Wings coach Mike Babcock was vehement about the confidence boost that playing in the worlds would give to a still-developing player like Ericsson.

The 26-year-old showed a lot of promise in his first season with Detroit, but suffered at times to find his place in the Wings’ defense during his sophomore season, at one point being a healthy scratch for five of six games in March.

“It’s very important that he goes,” Babcock said. “The message I had for him is don’t go there and look at the players and say he’s better than me, he’s better than me, he’s better than me. On our team, you go OK, Nick’s there, Rafi’s there, Stewie’s here, Kronwall’s here. Forget that. Just go there and be the best D man.

“And you know, I thought Big E was outstanding last year in the playoffs. I thought he was inconsistent more so this year. That’s a learning curve for you, you’re getting better. He’s got to come back next year and take a real step, because it helps us be better but he wants to and he’s very capable.”

Ericsson says he’s actually looking forward to the pressure of the worlds, and that his confidence is back to normal after his rocky stretch.

“It was a good learning experience,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to take it back right now, I learned a lot from it I think, and if things would kind of go like that again I would kind of know how to deal with it a lot better.”

While the experience will be beneficial for Ericsson, both Howard and Filppula plan on recovering from nagging injuries they did not disclose during the playoffs.

“I made the decision (Sunday) night that respectfully, I’d decline,” Howard said. “Just because groin’s not 100 percent, and we thought it would be better than running the risk of going over there and setting myself back for training this summer.”

As a rookie, he played 62 games in during the season and 12 in the playoffs. But Howard said the grind wasn’t why he decided not to represent the U.S., which is in desperate need of a solid goalie that can carry them through the tournament.

“It wasn’t that,” he said. “I mulled over it pretty much all day yesterday of what to do. I talked to my family, I talked to my agent, I talked to some of the guys around here, and just figured, you know, the best decision is to get healthy and get ready for next year.”

Filppula also felt the best decision would be for him to rest and recover.

“My body’s been through kind of a rough year,” he said. “So I need a little rest now I think, I think it’s the smarter thing to do.”

A broken wrist suffered on Oct. 29, forced Filppula to miss 27 games. He also suffered an injury to his ribs during the Wings’ first-round series victory over Phoenix, which he did not disclose until Monday.

“I just got crushed by a bad hit,” he said. “It happens in the playoffs, but I think now is a good time to get everything healed and start working for next year.”

Zetterberg said, plain and simple, that he needs a break.

“For me, it was (an easy decision),” he said. “I called them yesterday and said I wouldn’t go, and needed this break. I’ll be able to take good care of the body for a few weeks here, and go at it again.”

Along with Datsyuk and Ericsson, two players from the Red Wings’ farm club in Grand Rapids, are participating in the worlds. Sergei Kolosov (Belarus) and Tomas Tatar (Slovakia) are playing for their countries on an international stage for the second time this year.

Kolosov played in the Vancouver Games, and Tatar played in the 2010 World Junior Championships.

The 16-nation tournament consists of a preliminary round, which runs through May 16. The medal games are scheduled for May 23.

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