Nash commits to playing for Team Canada at Worlds

The Canadian Press

4/9/2011 12:20:54 AM

TORONTO -- Canada's entry for the upcoming IIHF World Hockey Championship is starting to take shape despite a murky playoff picture making the job more complicated for Dave Nonis.

The general manager has received commitments from a number of NHL players, including forward Rick Nash, who is sitting out the final two games for the Columbus Blue Jackets with a back injury but is expected to appear in his fourth world championship.

Nash was named MVP of the 2007 tournament in Moscow while helping Canada win gold and was part of the Olympic team last year in Vancouver.

Ottawa's Jason Spezza and Colorado's Matt Duchene, two other forwards with previous world championship experience, have also signed on and could be joined by a third in John Tavares. The leading goal-scorer from last year's team requires clearance from the New York Islanders after their regular season wraps up Saturday.

"I'm looking forward to getting a chance to play and it extends my year, so it'll be something that's exciting for me to get a chance to win a gold medal," said Spezza.

Forwards Chris Stewart of the St. Louis Blues and Andrew Ladd of the Atlanta Thrashers will also be part of the Canadian squad along with Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo.

Nonis is the senior vice-president of hockey operations for the Toronto Maple Leafs and may bring a couple of his own players along. James Reimer is expected to be one of the three Canadian goaltenders, capping a memorable year that saw him go from fourth on the organization's depth chart at training camp to No. 1 by the end of the season.

The 23-year-old from Morweena, Man., has made it known that he's eager to travel to Slovakia for the event.

"I've always wanted to wear the Maple Leaf," Reimer said Friday. "I'm wearing it right now (but) it's not red and white. If the opportunity arises, it will be exciting.

"It's been a dream of mine ever since I was little kid -- just like making the NHL -- to play for Team Canada so if that what happens, I'll be excited beyond words."

It promises to be a busy weekend for Nonis and assistants Rob Blake, Bob Murray and Brad Pascall.

They've yet to finalize a coaching staff -- that could happen as soon as Saturday -- with less than two weeks remaining before the team opens training camp in Paris. Canada will play exhibition games there and in Prague before opening the tournament in Kosice, Slovakia, with a game against Belarus on April 29.

More players will be added to the roster once the NHL's playoff picture becomes clearer over the weekend.

The Carolina Hurricanes are sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference and have a handful of players that would be of interest, including captain Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward, both members of the world championship team that won gold in 2007.

In the West, Dallas, Chicago and Anaheim are battling for the final two playoff spots and all three feature players who suited up for Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympics.