COLOGNE Ė Mikhail Grabovski doesnít play the full 60 minutes of a Belarus game, it just seems that way. There are two reasons for that. One, he does play a lot, heís averaged 22:38 minutes in the 2010 IIHF World Championship, most of all forwards in the tournament. Two, he plays those minutes hard.
It may be a surprise to some Toronto Maple Leafs fans and it may not be perfectly in line with his public image, but itís true.
Itís easy to see why any scout would fall in love with the World Championship Grabovski or why coach Zankovets relies on him as much as he does. Grabovski takes big faceoffs, he plays on the power play, he kills penalties, he backcheks, forechecks, and he scores goals. Or, he usually scores goals. In Germany, heís only collected two assists in five games.
In Belarusís game against Germany, a must-win for Grabovskiís gang to keep them still in the running for a quarterfinal spot, he got a breakaway with a little over a minute remaining in the game, Belarus holding onto a 1-0 lead. The game, and a playoff berth in his hands, he made a deke, and fired a wrist shot, which the German goaltender blocked.
Then, of course, Germany tied the game with 54 seconds remaining in the game. Grabovskiís assist on the game winning goal by Alexei Kalyuzhny was a poor consolation.
ďWe needed to win this game in regulation time. I have no comment right now because I didnít score on that breakaway. It was good chance for us. This is the worst moment of my career,Ē he said.
For Grabovski, playing for Belarus in the World Championship is a big deal. Born in East Germany, his family moved to Minsk when he was three. The 26-year-old forward is in his sixth tournament, fifth in the top division, and - barring a Toronto Maple Leafs long playoff run - he will be back.
ďI donít know what Iíd do if I didnít play hockey. I love hockey, itís my life. My family is in Belarus and itís difficult for them to come to North America, but they can come to the Worlds and see me play,Ē he says.
ďI want to play better (than this) in the future, so I will work hard and maybe I can be better at the next World Championship,Ē he adds.
Of course, Belarusís tournament isnít really over yet, even if it may feel like that for them. Theyíre back in the saddle today, in their last game against Denmark.
ďWe want to finish the tournament well and play hard and simple game. We always try to win,Ē says Grabovski.
The game is much bigger for Denmark that clinched a quarterfinal spot. The Danesí highest World Championship finish to date is tenth, in 1949 and 2007. Denmark will start Patrick Galbraith in goal and the game will also be Morten Greenís 200th with the Danish national team.