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Pat Burns will return behind the bench as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the upcoming men's world championships in May. ((Bill Kostroun/Associated Press))

Team Canada will face a lot of pressure winning the world hockey championship as the country hosts the event for the first time, but the team is hard to beat in terms of coaching experience.

Canadian general manager Steve Yzerman formally introduced Ken Hitchcock of Columbus as head coach on Monday for the tournament, which will feature games in Halifax and Quebec City next month.

He will be assisted by Edmonton head coach Craig MacTavish, longtime NHL coach Pat Burns, and Los Angeles associate coach Mike Johnson, who was an assistant with Canada's winning world championship team in Russia last year.

Burns, 56, was forced to step down as head coach of the New Jersey Devils following the 2003-04 after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

During his 14-year NHL coaching career, Burns won the Jack Adams Trophy as coach of the year while he was with the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins.

"To get back into coaching is something I'll look at and this is like taking baby steps back into it, but I'm certainly excited about," said Burns, who is still with New Jersey as a consultant.

As NHL head coaches, members of Team Canada's staff have reached the Stanley Cup final five times, with Burns and Hitchcock each winning.

"I think the difference in opinions and difference in philosophies is really going to help us," said Hitchcock. "I think that being able to add experienced head coaches like Pat and Craig is really helpful for me as the head guy, because their opinions I value and their friendships I value a lot, and Mike and I go back a long ways, and Mike's experience at the NHL level and the worlds level is really going to be valuable."

Some players already on board

Yzerman said he has already received verbal commitments from a number of players, with an announcement expected in the coming days.

The longtime Detroit Red Wings star and now executive said there will be a few roster spots available for players whose teams are ultimately eliminated in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

Hitchcock told CBCSports.ca he has had the good fortune to know several of the potential players through his NHL and international experience.

"I've been lucky enough to be involved with Olympics and World Cups and stuff like that, so some of the players who are obviously out of the playoffs, you can assume some of the names we're talking to. These are players I've had good working relationships with and hopefully we can get them to commit."

The coach said that playing on North American ice surfaces instead of in Europe will have some bearing on the players selected and the team's style.

"I think you're going to see international hockey, but played with NHL style, and I think we have to pay respect to that," said Hitchcock.

"You're going to have to have players who play that NHL game and can play it at a very high level and very competitive, because the time and space is going to be closed down a lot."

The 2008 IIHF World Championship drops the puck on May 2 with Canada taking on Slovenia on the first day of the tournament.

With files from the Canadian Press