Is Anze Kopitar playing possum, or is he just a realist?
The puck drops at the International Ice Hockey Federation world championship today at 4:30 p.m. at the Metro Centre, with host Canada taking on Kopitar’s Slovenia.
It’s a classic David and Goliath battle. Slovenia is a massive underdog, and has only produced one NHLer, ever. That’s Kopitar, a rising star with the Los Angeles Kings.
“If we can keep it to five goals, that would be good,” he said coyly.
Dartmouth’s Mike Johnston, an assistant coach with Canada, is also an assistant coach with Kopitar’s Kings. According to him, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound forward can’t be trusted, and may be trying to lure Canada into a false sense of security.
“Don’t believe him,” Johnston said bluntly. “He may be the type of guy who may say that, but he’s going to go out tomorrow and try to dominate the game. He’s going to attempt to control the game. And he can do that. Our guys know that.”
Many Canadian players know from experience they can’t take opponents lightly. Last year, en route to gold in Moscow, they barely beat Germany 3-2 in the tournament opener.
“A hot goalie and a few bad bounces and you can get yourself in a lot of trouble,” forward Jason Spezza said. “This isn’t back in the day where these guys can’t skate or don’t have sticks. They’re all capable hockey players who play pro.”
The 100-year-old event is being held in Canada for the first time, and the warm welcome the players received at a pep rally at Grand Parade yesterday helped generate plenty of energy.
“The fact that it’s in Canada and everybody’s fired up around here … we’ve got a good group of guys and everybody’s anxious to get it started,” Spezza said.