Nothing is going to keep Zach Boychuk out of Canada's lineup in the 2009 World Junior Championship in Ottawa.
"One of the best feelings you can have is to put the Maple Leaf on your chest and represent your country," Boychuk said in an interview today.
Despite an ankle injury late in Canada's intense and scintillating 7-4 win over the United States on Wednesday, the Canes' 2008 first-round draft pick said he was able to skate today and will be ready come Saturday for the semifinal game.
"It felt really good," Boychuk said of the ankle. "It was a little sore, but as practice went on, it warmed up and felt better and I was going full-speed and skating with everybody. After about 20 minutes, the coaches told me to go in, that they didn't want to overwork it."
Boychuk said he has never experienced a game atmosphere quite like the one New Year's Eve at Scotiabank Place. Team USA, which includes Canes prospect Drayson Bowman, opened up a 3-0 lead in the first period, but Canada charged back for a 3-3 tie by the end of the period and had the crowd of 20,203 in an uproar.
"It was unbelievable," Boychuk said. "You couldn't hear the guy next to you on the bench or a teammate calling for a pass.
"To be down three goals, with not much going your way, and then come back like that ... the fans were unbelievable. It was the most fans ever to see in a game in the World Juniors and it was great to be a part of it."
Boychuk's power-play goal early in the second period gave Canada its first lead, 4-3. John Tavares, who scored two first-period goals, finished with a hat trick for Team Canada, the gold-medal winner last year in the World Juniors.
Boychuk, a member of the 2008 champs, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Hurricanes in October -- on his 19th birthday -- and played in two games early in the season. He then was returned to the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League for another season of junior hockey. In 21 games, he has 12 goals and 14 assists, and said he recently was moved from the wing to center.
"I think I've played really well," he said. "We've bumped a few lines around trying to find some chemistry. The team has started to pick it up and we're still in the playoff run."
Boychuk said he talks once a week (and texts even more) with the Canes' Brandon Sutter, a rookie center who played with Boychuk on Canada's 2008 World Juniors champions. He watches all the Hurricanes highlights and said the firing of coach Peter Laviolette was "a surprise."
He chuckled when told TSN analyst Bob McKenzie had written that given Boychuk's performance in the World Juniors -- he has four goals and three assists -- there was no question Boychuk would be playing for the Canes next season.
"That's great to learn," he said. "But all I can do is focus on how I'm playing and play the best I can."