Downie showing huge upside

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

LEKSAND, Sweden -- Steve Downie doesn't get it.

"What's going on? I'm just playing hockey," Downie, in his second world junior with Canada, said when asked whether he has matured in the past year. "I'm just doing what I did last year."

Downie carried lots of baggage with him when he arrived in Vancouver for the world junior a year ago, much of it stemming from a highly publicized fight with then-teammate Akim Aliu when both were with the Windsor Spitfires. But Downie has grown as a vital piece of Canada's junior team.

The native of Queensville, Ont., and Philadelphia Flyers prospect has that look, a certain crustiness, that endears him to teammates. Downie, who plays for the Peterborough Petes, shrugged at the suggestion he is a leader on this club.

"Everyone looks up to everyone," Downie, 19, said. "What other games would you rather play than big ones for your country?"

Said coach Craig Hartsburg, "When the game is on the line, there are probably not many players you would rather have on the ice."

THAT'S DETERMINATION

Defenceman Cody Franson's mother Karen had quite a tale to tell when she arrived at the world junior last week. The family resides in Sicamous, B.C. She had to get a passport to travel to Europe and on the way home from Vancouver after receiving her passport the bus in which she was a passenger flipped, but she was not hurt.

She nearly missed her connecting flight to Stockholm from Frankfurt, but made it onto the plane as the gate closed. She then missed a bus to her hotel in Mora and had to stay a night in Stockholm, arriving just in time for Canada's first game last week.

Franson did not know his mother had even planned to attend the tournament.

"My dad (Cal) told me no one was coming," Franson said. "We were on the ice after our first game and there was a lady in the crowd waving her arms at me and I said to myself, 'Mom?' It was so cool. She looked at me after and said, 'You better win gold.' "

BRIEFLY

Canada forward James Neal, who missed Sunday's game with a groin problem, practised yesterday and said he will be in the lineup today ... Canada has not won gold at a world junior in Europe since 1997, a span of five events.


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