Friends for ... never

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:00 AM ET

The friendships and memories from the world junior championship will last a lifetime but for now they're on the backburner.

When the Calgary Hitmen travel up Hwy. 2 for tonight's contest against the Red Deer Rebels (7:30 p.m., FAN 960), it's back to business against their arch-rival.

After spending almost a month on the Canadian junior squad with Rebels stars Dion Phaneuf and Colin Fraser, winning a world championship together, Hitmen forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd forged solid relationships with the two players.

"Anytime you go through something like that, it's just natural to have a bond but, in saying that, it's back to work," said Ladd, who along with Getzlaf will rejoin their Hitmen teammates for tonight's contest after missing the last six games.

"It's back to the big rivalry. We're two points behind them right now and every divisional game is important but it's time to start getting focused and ready for the playoffs."

After the world juniors wrapped up on Tuesday following Canada's 6-1 triumph over Russia, Getzlaf and Ladd took a couple of days off to spend some time with their families in Regina and Maple Ridge, B.C., respectively.

When reached in Regina yesterday, Getzlaf acknowledged after playing with Phaneuf and Fraser for nearly a month it'll be a little different going against them. But that will only last for about 30 seconds.

"It'll be a little bit hard I think but it's all part of it and we've been through it a lot where you're teammates one day then you've got to play against them the next day, so it's all part of the business, I guess," said Getzlaf, who finished second overall in world junior scoring with 12 points.

Both Getzlaf and Ladd emerged unscathed injury-wise from the world junior championship, save for the usual bumps and bruises.

And that's good news for the Hitmen (17-14-6-2), who need to get on a roll. They're currently riding a two-game losing streak while going 3-6-1 in their last 10 and sit in fourth place in the WHL's Central Division, right behind the Rebels, who will be that much stronger with Phaneuf and Fraser back in the fold.

The Hitmen also will welcome back rookies Karl Alzner, Ryan White, Keegan Dansereau and backup netminder Daniel Spence, all of whom played in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Lethbridge.

White and Dansereau played for Team Western, which won the tournament championship over Alzner and Spence's club -- Team Pacific.


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