CORAL SPRINGS, USA – Not quite ready to call it quits this season, Marcel Goc says he is anxious to reunite with his brother, Nikolai, and assist the German national team with his rejuvenated play.
Marcel Goc is taking his talent from South Florida to Stockholm. Riding the high from a strong finish to the NHL season, Goc hopes his play will factor positively for his national team at the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
"You don't want to take off too long," Goc said. "I'm still in hockey shape, playing shape, so I'll get over there and meet the team in Stockholm."
Goc has been a mainstay for the Germans since he made his World Championship debut in 2001 as a 17-year-old. He's appeared in 207 games for the national team, registering 30 goals and 57 assists in top-level international play. In 2010, he earned the honour of captaining the German squad on home ice in Cologne.
What makes this year's tournament special for the Florida Panthers' centre, though, is the fact he'll get a rare opportunity to play with his younger brother, Nikolai, who plays for Adler Mannheim, Marcel’s last German club before he left for the NHL in 2003.
"I haven't played much with him," Goc said. "I thought, why not? It should be a good experience with him."
The brothers last played together in 2010, when Germany reached the bronze medal game on home ice. Although the Germans fell 3-1 to Sweden in that contest, the squad's fourth-place finish marked a team best since German reunification in 1990.
"We are the underdog for sure in those games," he said.
Playing for a dark horse is nothing new for Goc. Last off-season, the pivot signed a three-year deal with Florida, a team that overhauled its entire roster through free agency.
After a slow start in which he recorded just two points, Goc missed 22 games due to a concussion suffered in mid-November. He collided with a teammate during a game, and what appeared to be benign at first sidelined the Calw native for six weeks.
"My concussion, that was unfortunate," he said. "It wasn't even a hit. We just ran into each other. I didn't see him, he didn't see me. I just got the worst out of that. It took me longer than expected to come back.
"I guess there's nothing you can do there. You can't ice your brain or wrap it so the swelling goes out. You've just got to give it time to heal and feel 100 per cent again."
Goc returned to the lineup the first week of January and tallied 25 points over Florida's final 40 games. By the time the Panthers clinched their first Southeast Division title, Florida coach Kevin Dineen had promoted him to the team's second line.
Goc also played an integral role for the Panthers in the Eastern Conference quarter-finals against the New Jersey Devils, netting a pair of goals and three assists in seven playoff games.
In Game 7, Goc scored a power-play tally with 3:28 remaining to force overtime and keep Florida's postseason hopes alive.
"It could have gone either way, I think," Goc said. "Once we started the third period, we started picking up, got to come back and tie the game."
The Panthers were eliminated when New Jersey's Adam Henrique scored 3:47 into double overtime.
"They had chances, we had chances, and one of their shots went in," Goc said. "Game over."
The Panthers, who sent sizable contingents to the World Championships during a 12-year drought, feel the added playing time will benefit Goc.
"A chance to represent your country is always a fabulous experience," Florida Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "I think any continued play by guys is always beneficial, guarding health issues."
Goc sees the opportunity in the same light.
"It's fun for me. I like playing for the national team," he said. "I know it's a little different as a European player playing over here when the playoffs are going on.
"I told [the German national team], I want to play here in the playoffs," Goc said. "But if things don't work out here, and they want me – and if I am not hurt – I am happy to play."
For the Germans, the sentiment is likely mutual.