COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Nino Niederreiter battled a broken fibula and a high ankle sprain throughout the NHL season with the Minnesota Wild and is looking to make up for lost time by playing for his native country, Switzerland, at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.
The 25-year-old playing in his fifth world championship has three goals and three assists in six games as the Swiss battle for a spot in the quarterfinals. They are presently fourth in Group A with a game against France remaining in the preliminary round.
"I would love to still be playing for a Stanley Cup, but it is what it is," said the 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger. "I love to play for my country. Whenever I have the chance, it's always super fun. So it's great to be here."
Patrick Fischer, head coach of the Swiss national team, said Niederreiter is like an ambassador for the way he'd like all of his players to play.
"He's not only a great hockey player, he's a great human being, respectful to everyone and especially the game," he said. "He plays hard. He works hard and he's our offensive leader. Nino loves to play for the country and he loves to hockey and you just can't say enough good things about him. He's an honest guy and it's really great to have him here."
Fischer appreciates what Niederreiter can do to help his team off the ice as much as he can help it on the ice.
"Nino is only 25 years old, but we have a young group and he knows that and he's taking charge," Fischer explained. "He loves the responsibility and he's always been a guy who finds the way. He left our country early to earn his way in the NHL and he leads by example. He's not a guy who talks too much. He shows it and his dedication and willpower is tremendous. Our players can definitely learn from him."
As the head coach said, Niederreiter, who has represented his country twice at the U18s, twice at the world junior championship, at the Olympics, on Team Europe at the World Cup and now in his fifth world championship, whole-heartedly embraces the opportunity of being an example for other Swiss players and wants to help the team go as far as they can.
"Obviously, I like to be a leader out there and try to carry the team a little bit in some way and just try to be the best player I can be every time I step on the ice," Niederreiter said. "Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn't go as well as I want to, but I'm happy with the way the tournament is going so far.
"It's tough to say what our goal is because we just want to go as far as we can here. We're just trying to play our best every single night and hope it leads us to a win, then the quarterfinals and hopefully a chance to play for a medal. Our focus needs to be on each game and taking it one day, one game, one win at a time.
Niederreiter scored 18 goals and 14 assists for 32 points in 63 games with the Wild this season, but had hoped for more, both personally and as a team.
He sees this tournament as a way to right the ship heading into his summer training.
"It wasn't the season I was hoping for in the NHL, but ... I'm trying to make the most of these games to feel good about my game," Niederreiter said. "You always want to finish the season with a good feeling. The way things ended in the playoffs, it didn't give me the good feeling that I wanted it to, so I came here to try to get some confidence and play the way I know I can while I'm here."
Switzerland plays France on Tuesday at 5 a.m. CT to close out preliminary round play.