• Raffl: "We've got to prove a point"

    From IIHF News@1:266/404 to All on Fri May 11 19:01:16 2018
    Michael Raffl does not take losing lightly. That's not surprising. He's the lone NHLer on Austria's 2018 World Championship team, and he plays for the Philadelphia Flyers, a club famed for its hard-nosed attitude.

    The 29-year-old forward from Villach was in no mood for cheerful platitudes after the newly promoted Austrians fell 7-0 to defending champion Sweden on Wednesday night at Copenhagen's Royal Arena. Coach Roger Bader's men earned one point in their opening 3-2 overtime loss to Switzerland, but have come away
    empty-handed in their last three outings.

    "How would you feel if you lose 7-0 and you don't have the puck much out there?" said Raffl, who is playing in his fifth top-level Worlds. "I try not to
    overthink it. I'll park that game and move on to the next two. Those are our key games, and these are the games we have to be prepared for."

    Since getting relegated on home ice in Vienna in 2005, the underdog Austrians have become the ultimate "elevator team," appearing in the top division in 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015 prior to this year. Beating France on Friday and Belarus on Saturday would drastically enhance their chances of ending the elevator routine and returning for the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia.

    Even though top French goalie Cristobal Huet has retired and NHLers Antoine Roussel and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare aren't at this tournament, Raffl certainly
    isn't taking the French for granted. France hammered Belarus 6-2 on 5 May.

    "They've managed to stay up in the [top division] for 10 years or more now, and
    we haven't," Raffl said. "I think they're still the favourite and we're the challenger. We've got to prove a point, make them pay somehow."

    Will it be on the scoreboard? This 184-cm, 88-kg veteran isn't a big sniper by NHL standards. Bouncing around the line-up, Raffl had 13 goals and nine assists
    in 76 games with the Flyers this year, matching his rookie output of 22 points
    in 2013714. He added one assist in Philadelphia's six-game first-round exit against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Regardless, Raffl, who had 21 goals for the Flyers in 2014/15, must find the range for an Austrian team that's been outscored 21-4 so far if they're going to go anywhere. After being added to the roster for his 2018 Worlds debut against Slovakia, he assisted on Peter Schneider's early third-period goal in that 4-2 loss.

    Raffl quipped that he has mixed feelings about facing Flyers teammate Radko Gudas with the Czech Republic on Monday. Gudas, a take-no-prisoners defenceman who has 516 career NHL penalty minutes, made headlines at last year's Worlds when he punched Philadelphia captain Claude Giroux in a 4-1 Czech loss to Canada.

    "Gotta talk to him before," said Raffl. "Maybe he lets me live! No, it's fine. We'll see."

    With his NHL experience, what kind of message does Raffl try to send to his younger teammates after a tough experience like getting demolished by Sweden?

    "After this game, I can say I played my first [international] game against Sweden and I think we lost 14-0 or 15-0, and I still managed to make it to the NHL somehow. I try to be a good role model in the locker room, and help them out wherever I can."

    Austrian hockey is a family affair. Even though things haven't gone smoothly on
    the ice so far, Raffl is enjoying the chance to play with his cousin, 24-year-old forward Alexander Rauchenwald, for the first time.

    "Usually my brother is here too," said Raffl, alluding to long-time captain Thomas Raffl, who is out with a lower-body injury. "I always look forward to that. I've never played with my cousin. It's a special tournament for me. He was awarded Best Player [against Sweden], which is great. It's good to see him."

    Yet ultimately, it's all about winning for a competitive guy like Raffl, who was never drafted by an NHL club and logged two seasons with Sweden's Leksands IF before making the jump to North America. He has grown and matured since Austria's disappointing experience at the 2014 Sochi Olympics due to a lack of discipline and focus on and off the ice.

    Asked if he feels Austrian hockey is on the right track, Raffl was unsparing in
    his assessment: "I don't think so. I think the [EBEL] league still hasn't realized that it doesn't work if you play 10 import players per team and people think you have a great league. There's a lot of players on this team that don't get the chance to play on the power play or lots of minutes out there. It's very tough. I have a lot of respect for those guys, how they battle out here at this level."


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