MALMO, SWEDEN – Griffin Reinhart doesn't have fond memories of how his 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship ended.
"It was one of the worst feelings I've had in hockey for sure," the Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman said.
Being forced to sit and watch the first three Canadian games of this year's tournament has been almost as painful.
"It's definitely hard on the heart," Reinhart said on Monday night moments after Canada beat Slovakia 5-3 to set up a first-place showdown with the United States on Tuesday. The Slovaks had led 3-2 in the third period.
Reinhart is one of only three Canadian players back at the World Juniors looking to avenge last year's devastating fourth-place finish. But the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft (New York Islanders) has yet to play, because of a four-game suspension picked up for a high-stick on American Vince Trocheck in last year's semifinal loss. He missed the bronze medal loss to the Russians, which was the first game of the ban.
Deciding to bring Reinhart to Malmo was one of the trickiest decisions Hockey Canada's brain trust faced leading into the event. But they decided, ultimately, that Reinhart brought too much to the table to leave at home. And they hope he'll now help boost a team struggling to find its way.
"Huge for us," head coach Brent Sutter said when asked about Reinhart's return. "I mean, when you have a player like that, that's big, strong, smart, moves the puck, we obviously miss him on our back end. It's an area where we need to continue to improve in this tournament as we go along.
"We also have to understand he hasn't played for a bit here, but, that being said, he has to come in and be ready to go and take over some key minutes for us, which we need him to do."
Reinhart, who hasn't played since the last pre-tournament game on Dec. 23, insists he should have little to no rust.
"It's only been a week, eight days or so, since I played last and it's like that in the WHL where you have a week off so it's nothing new and I'll be ready for tomorrow," said Reinhart, who will join younger brother Sam in the line-up becoming the third sibling tandem to ever play for Canada in the same World Juniors. The other two were Dougie and Freddie Hamilton in 2012 and Randy and Mark Moller in 1982.
"I'm just going to try and play a calm game back there. The defence has done a good job so far and I'm just going to try and fit in with them."
After waiting and waiting to get back in, Reinhart objects to the notion that he's facing added pressure.
"I've played at this level before," he said. "I think I'm going to be okay. I'll try and bring my experience that way. I'm going to have to take the first couple shifts and get my way back into it, but I feel I'm in good enough shape now, I've been skating this past week and I'll be ready to jump back into it."
And Reinhart believes there's a certain symmetry in returning against the team he last faced in the World Juniors.
"I'm really anxious. It's always hard to watch, especially losing in a shootout [to the Czechs], but I'm really looking forward to this day tomorrow. It's been almost a year now since I played my last World Junior game so it's fitting that it's coming against the same team I played last."