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Hockey worlds calling on Senators

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
For the second straight year, Senators centre Jason Spezza will represent Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. The 2009 tournament begins April 24 in Switzerland (Getty Images).

Their season with the Ottawa Senators is officially over.

But for nine members of the team, it isn't time to pack away the hockey equipment for the summer just yet.

Team Canada management has tabbed four Senators to join its roster for the 2009 IIHF World Hockey Championship, which begins April 24 in Zurich and Bern, Switzerland.

For the second straight year, forward Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza will be a part of the Canadian team at worlds. Heatley was named the most valuable player at the 2008 tournament in Quebec City and Halifax, when Canada won the silver medal.

Also accepting invites to wear the red maple leaf were centre Mike Fisher and defenceman Chris Phillips.

"It's always a great honour and a great opportunity to play for Canada," said Heatley, who will make his sixth appearance at the hockey worlds and is Team Canada's all-time leading goal scorer in the tournament. "I've always enjoyed that tournament and it should be a good time again."

Added Fisher: "I'm looking forward to it. I got the chance to play four years ago and it was a lot of fun. That was my first chance to play for Canada and I was excited to get the invite to go. A lot of our teammates are going and playing for different countries, so it's going to be a lot of fun."

Wearing opposition colours in Switzerland will be forwards Nick Foligno (United States), Ryan Shannon (U.S.) and Jarkko Ruutu (Finland), and defenceman Christoph Schubert (Germany). Defenceman Anton Volchenkov expects to be in Russia's lineup, but he'll make a final decision on his participation after the team's pre-tournament camp. If all goes well, he'll help his homeland defend its world gold medal.

Senators prospects Peter Regin (Denmark) and Kaspars Daugavins (Latvia) have also accepted invitations to play in the tournament.

The number of Senators heading off to Switzerland might have been even higher, but captain Daniel Alfredsson (Sweden) is staying home to nurse a back injury, while defenceman Filip Kuba declined an invite from the Czech Republic.

Foligno, who just completed a breakout season for the Senators, is excited about making his debut at a major international tournament.

"It'll be a lot of fun and I can't wait to face off against Spezz, Heater and Philly," said the Buffalo native. "It'll be neat to play in that kind of atmosphere for a country. It'll be a lot different but a lot of fun."

"It's always a great honour and a great opportunity to play for Canada I've always enjoyed that tournament and it should be a good time again." - Dany Heatley
That being said, the reason so many Senators are available for the world tournament is a simple one – they fell short of a Stanley Cup playoff berth for the first time in 12 seasons. Spezza said that makes the event "a little bit bittersweet" for him.

"It's always nice to get a chance to represent your country, but you want to be in the playoffs," he said. "Once you get over there and get caught up in the moment, it'll be more exciting.

"We want to win a gold medal. It gives us something to play for and shortens the summer up for you a little bit. Those tournaments are always fun."

Said Phillips: "You still have a bitter taste about how the season went and not making the playoffs. But I'm definitely excited to have the opportunity to play for Team Canada now."

Canada plays its tournament opener April 24 in Zurich against Belarus. The gold-medal game is set for May 5 in Bern.

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