Veteran Canadiens Plekanec, Markov to play World Cup

Bill Daly and Donald Fehr sat down with Darren Millard to break down the allure of international competition for NHLers and what the NHL and NHLPA hope to create with the World Cup of Hockey going forward.

Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec (Team Czech Republic) and defenceman Andrei Markov (Team Russia) were both named Wednesday to their respective country’s preliminary roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

The two have combined to make 25 appearances in international tournaments.

“We’re extremely proud and happy for Plekanec and Markov,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien Wednesday. “They’re two veteran players that are really well respected in the hockey world.”

Plekanec was the captain of the Czech team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where he posted a goal and three assists in five games. He has no assurances of captaining the World Cup team, but he’s looking forward to another opportunity to play for his country.

“As a kid you’re dreaming to represent your national team,” said Plekanec Wednesday. “It’s an honour to play for the national team and put on the jersey.”

Plekanec is Montreal’s second-leading scorer this season with 12 goals and 34 assists in 63 games.

With four goals and 30 assists in 63 games, Markov ranks sixth on the Canadiens in scoring.

“For a short period of time he struggled a little bit [this season],” said Therrien. “But you know he’s a real pro and he’s been playing some good for hockey for us for the most part of this year.”

It was in late January that Therrien passionately defended the 37-year-old Markov after he was booed at the Bell Centre for his performance in a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins.

Markov has since rebounded with 11 points in 16 games, playing over 20 minutes in all but one of them.

He was one of three defencemen on Russia's initial 16-man roster. He’s hoping Team Russia can redeem itself in the World Cup after being eliminated by Team Finland in the quarterfinals of the Sochi Games.

“Everybody wants to win, especially with the history of the Soviet Union team,” said Markov. “But these days, right now, it’s not easy to win. There are lots of good teams out there who want to win, and it’s going to be tough.”

The tournament odds-makers have Team Europe and Team North America as longshots to medal at the World Cup. While it’s possible Canadiens forward Lars Eller will be a part of the former, and Alex Galchenyuk will be a part of the latter, neither player was selected on Wednesday.

Defenceman P.K. Subban was left off Team Canada's roster, while goaltender Carey Price was one of three goalies named to the squad Wednesday. And captain Max Pacioretty was among nine forwards named to Team USA.

“We wish our players will get named and get the opportunity to play in such a big event,” said Therrien. “One thing is for sure, we take a lot of pride about having our players in that event.”