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Team USA: Larkin, Howard in, Blashill to coach

Several Red Wings plan on participating in the IIHF World Championships

by Arthur J. Regner @ArthurJRegner / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- Red Wings hockey may be over for the year, but several Wings will be playing in the IIHF Hockey World Championships that begin on May 5 and run through May 21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany.

Dylan Larkin and Jimmy Howard will be wearing the red, white and blue for Team USA and their bench boss will be their Detroit head coach, Jeff Blashill.

"I'm really excited. It's another opportunity to get better and have fun playing," Larkin said. "USA Hockey, I always enjoyed playing for them and representing my country so I'm really excited about it."

Howard has played in several international competitions over the years and he relishes the opportunity to put on the American sweater, but patriotism is not his only motivation this time around.

"Yeah, I'm going to worlds," Howard told the assembled media on Tuesday as the Wings took their team photo and cleaned out their lockers. "I'm going to continue to keep playing. I think that's important for me, especially because I missed a good chunk of the season being out with the injury. I'm looking forward to it."

When asked if playing in the world championship lessens the blow of not making the playoffs, Howard was direct.   

"Obviously we all want to be playing here," he said. "This is the time of year when it's the most fun, being out there and having that electricity from the fans like we had Sunday. That's what every playoff game is like and it makes for exciting hockey."

Like Howard, Justin Abdelkader is a veteran of Team USA, but he may have to sit out this year because of a knee injury that he suffered on December 1 which kept him out for a little over a month.

Abdelkader says the knee has never fully recovered and plagued him throughout the rest of the season since he returned to the lineup on January 10.

"I would actually really like to go, go and play," Abdelkader said. "You want to continue to play. It's too early to be done, but we'll see. We'll meet with the doctors and we'll have a good idea by the end of this week what's going to happen.

"It's not like I'm in pain when I'm skating, but as far as exercising and working out and stuff, I don't have my full range of motion. I'm not sure if that's because it needs rest or needs (arthroscopic surgery) and maybe it's a little meniscus tear."

Blashill would obviously rather be coaching the Wings in the playoffs but it's an opportunity for him to continue working behind the bench.

"Obviously we'd all like to be playing tomorrow. We're not," said Blashill about being Team USA's bench boss. "It's an unbelievable honor to represent your country. When I was asked to do it, my instinct was to certainly say yes because of the fact that I've had a chance to represent my country in a couple of other tournaments.

"It's a great thing. Beyond that, I also think it's a heck of a coaching learning experience. I've looked at coaching my whole life and I hope that there's not one day that I didn't try to get better and that I haven't tried to learn and improve.

"One of the ways to do that is to be in different environments and learn from other staff members. This will give me a chance to be around people that I'm not around every day and hopefully to get that little bit better that we all want to be."

Larkin's excited to have Blashill behind the USA bench.  

"Just more opportunity to learn from him," Larkin said. "Towards the end of the year I think I made improvements on both sides of the puck and (I hope to) continue that.

"I don't know who the assistant coaches will be (for Team USA) but there's another different voice, you can learn different tricks from them and have fun playing. That's ultimately why I'm going."

Several of the Wings payers that have had extensive international experience for their respective national teams have decided to sit out this tournament.

Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg told reporters it's time to pass the Team Sweden torch to younger players. Gustav Nyquist has not had any contact with Team Sweden officials, but he believes he'll know by the end of the week whether or not he'll play.

Frans Nielsen will not be on the roster for Team Denmark, but Petr Mrazek will be patrolling the net for the Czech Republic.

Tomas Tatar would have represented Team Slovakia, but he has elected to have surgery this Thursday on a shoulder which has been a chronic issue for the last few seasons.

He is expected to miss 4-6 months, but expects to be ready for training camp in September.

"It's been bothering me almost every game. I don't think it's a big of a deal surgery. It's pretty simple and now is the time," Tatar said. "We have a longer period of days off because we are not in the playoffs so I think it's a good time to get it done and be ready for next season."    

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