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Dallas Stars at the IIHF World Championships update

Matt Niskanen (USA), Loui Eriksson, Nicklas Grossman and Joel Lundqvist (Sweden), James Neal (Canada) and Philip Larsen (Denmark) are all getting some extra hockey experience this summer as they represent their countries and the Dallas Stars over the next few weeks in Switzerland.

Pool play has already started, with Team Canada defeating Belarus 6-1 last night, with James Neal getting two assists in the victory.

Qualifying rounds start April 30 and and the quaterfinals start on May 6. The Bronze and Gold Medal games are scheduled for May 10.

USA Hockey is looking to become contenders once again after failing to impress the past several years, their best finish since the 2002 Olympics being third place at the 2004 World Championships. Last year, the USA team made headlines when they resorted to take out their frustrations with their fists during a bronze medal game loss to Finland.

In order to spark the team and provide some energy, the team dedicated twelve roster spots to players 25 or younger. Just nine players on the USA squad have any World Championship experience.

USA defenseman and Dallas Star Matt Niskanen is looking at not only representing his country, but also improving and growing as a player.

"This is an important summer for me," Niskanen said. "I'm at that point in my professional career and at my age where I really do need to take the next step. And the best way to be better on the ice is making the physical improvements, and that means spending more time in the weight room, on the track, on the ice, everywhere."

He says that his focus this summer is to build his strength up in order to improve his physical presence.

"With today's rules, you have to be a hybrid," he said. "You have to be able to skate and move the puck, but you also have to be able to handle the big forwards. It takes a lot, so you have to give yourself all of the tools to do that.

"You look at someone like Scott Niedermayer. I think his smarts are the key, obviously. But you watch him, and you see how strong he is and what kind of shape he's in. He has the smarts, but he has to have the physical ability to make that mean something."

You can see the full schedule here at Universal Sports.

TSN has coverage of the tournament as well.

We'll also keep you updated here at Defending Big D on the progress of USA Hockey and the various Stars players in the tournament.