Canada putting best players forward at worlds

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Canada’s strength at the men’s world hockey championship is up front. Firepower at forward puts Canada among the favourites to win the International Ice Hockey Federation’s premier tournament. Led by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, twice the winner of the NHL’s Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer, Canada’s forwards boast substantial international experience and success in the NHL.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — Canada’s strength at the men’s world hockey championship is up front.

Firepower at forward puts Canada among the favourites to win the International Ice Hockey Federation’s premier tournament.

Led by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos, twice the winner of the NHL’s Maurice Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer, Canada’s forwards boast substantial international experience and success in the NHL.

“I like our whole group altogether, but obviously there’s some firepower up front and some offensive weapons who at the NHL level have really done well and contribute for their teams,” captain Eric Staal said Thursday at the Globe Arena.

Games start Friday, but Canada opens Saturday against Denmark followed by Switzerland on Sunday. Canada hasn’t won a world title since 2007 and exited in the tournament with quarter-final losses the last three years.

Stockholm and Helsinki are co-hosting the men’s world tournament for a second straight year with the Swedish capital the site of the medal games this time.

Defending champion Russia is a co-favourite as that country gears up to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The host Swedes and Finns, the Czech Republic and last year’s surprise silver medallist Slovakia are also contenders in the 16-team field.

Canada’s Stamkos, Staal, Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and Andrew Ladd of the Winnipeg Jets finished among the top 20 scorers in the NHL this lockout-shortened season.

Staal helped Canada win Olympic gold in 2010. The Carolina Hurricanes captain is one of eight Canadians in the IIHF’s “Triple Gold Club” of players who have won a world title, Stanley Cup and Olympic gold during their careers.

Jordan Eberle was third in scoring for the Oilers and is playing in his fourth straight world championship. Matt Duchene was one of Colorado’s top two producers and is appearing in his third. Staal, along with his brother and Hurricanes teammate Jordan, were both in Canada’s lineup on that victorious 2007 squad. Jordan Staal finished this season with 29 points in his last 28 games for Carolina.

The Staal brothers and Ladd have four Stanley Cups between them. All but one of the dozen forwards have played for Canada at some level during their careers. But Canada isn’t nearly as decorated or experienced on defence or in goal. Of the seven defenders named to the team, Philadelphia’s Luke Schenn and Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars are the only two with previous world championship experience.