JIM SLATER's hockey season isn't over just yet, but his next few games will be in the red, white and blue of Team USA.
The popular Winnipeg Jets centre has been named to the U.S. national team that will compete in the IIHF Men's World Championship running May 4-20 in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden.
It will be Slater's third time wearing USA colours as he also represented his country at the 2002 World Junior Championship and 2006 worlds.
"It happened pretty quick, but I'm excited," said Slater in a phone interview Wednesday. "My agent called me after the season was over and said he was talking to some people and they had given me a good look. The next day, the old general manager in Atlanta, Don Waddell (now the Pittsburgh Penguins' pro scout) called me and told me they were 99 per cent sure I was going to be on the team and asked if I would accept the invitation.
"I told him, 'Yes', of course and a couple hours later the big dog at USA Hockey, Jim Johnannson called and offered me a spot and told me he was looking forward to having me on the team.
"It's great. I can't wait."
After missing the second half of the 2010-11 season in Atlanta with concussion problems, Slater effectively reclaimed his career in his first year in Winnipeg. He centred the team's popular GST line along with Tanner Glass and Chris Thorburn and appeared in 78 games, scoring 13 goals and adding eight assists. He was the recipient of the team's community service award and also is the Jets' nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy after voting was conducted by the Winnipeg chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association.
Interestingly, the only reservation Slater had about heading overseas came from the fact he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. His hope is he remains injury-free overseas and then, upon his return, can hammer out a new deal with the Jets.
"I'd be super excited if we could do that," Slater said. "A lot of positive things have happened to me since I've been in Winnipeg. I'm very thankful I was able to be put into the situations I was. The only negative thing about the whole year was not making the playoffs.
"I'd be thrilled to be back."
Slater was one of 17 players named to the American team along with Paul Stastny (Colorado), Bobby Ryan and Cam Fowler (Anaheim), Nathan Gerbe (Buffalo), Max Pacioretty (Montreal), Jack Johnson and Cam Atkinson (Columbus), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), Justin Faulk and Patrick Dwyer (Carolina), Alex Goligoski and Richard Bachman (Dallas), J.T. Brown and Nate Thompson (Tampa Bay), Jeff Petry (Edmonton) and Ryan Lasch (played for the U.S. at the Deutschland Cup).
Other Jets confirmed to be participating in the world championship are Evander Kane and Andrew Ladd for Canada.
Meanwhile, Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is believed to be leaning towards not participating in the worlds.
Pavelec, who played for the Czech Republic at the 2010 Olympics and the 2010 and 2011 worlds, played in 68 of Winnipeg's 82 games this season.
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