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Canada opens with Kunitz-Crosby-Carter line

Feb 10, 2014, 12:19 PM EDT

Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz AP

Canada just wrapped its first practice in Sochi and, based on the preliminary line rushes, it appears as though the Pittsburgh duo of Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz will skate with Los Angeles winger Jeff Carter.

“He’s got a great shot, he’s got a lot of speed,” Crosby said of Carter. “I think anybody who plays on this team is going to have a lot of skill. You just try to make sure  that you build some chemistry as soon as possible, and make sure that we’re ready for the start.”

The “great shot” comment is key, because it’s clear Carter is on that line to serve as a trigger man. Any doubts were washed away when Babcock addressed the situation post-practice.

“After watching [Carter] pass it back today I’m not so sure,” said head coach Mike Babcock. “If he’s giving it back to Sid, he can’t play with him.”

The only other line to remain intact for most of the skate was Jonathan Toews centering Patrick Sharp and Rick Nash, not much of a surprise given the selection committee mentioned it wanted to utilize chemistry already built between teammates (see: Crosby-Kunitz, Toews-Sharp).

As for the “bottom six” forwards, they rotated through combinations during the skate. Afterward, a few gave insight as to where they’ll be playing come tournament time.

Per TSN’s Ryan Rishaug:

This could put Colorado’s Matt Duchene and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis — named as an injury replacement for Steve Stamkos — as the potential 13th and 14th forwards. It should be noted it’s still very early in the process and difficult to read too much into these lines (for example, Tavares was playing wing on a line with Getzlaf and Perry at one point, because he’d played wing during the lockout in Switzerland and was approached by Babcock about moving away from center).

It’s also worth noting St. Louis and Duchene got looks on various power play units.

On defense, there weren’t many surprises. Duncan Keith paired with Shea Weber, Drew Doughty skated with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and St. Louis Blues teammates Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo linked up as well. Dan Hamhuis and P.K. Subban made up the other pairing. As TSN’s Bob McKenzie noted, the pairings were exactly as most projected.

  1. sjsblitz - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    Going to start a count for every shot Carter fires wide

    • upper90cheese - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      Or directly into the goalies chest. (game 6)

    • ron05342 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:40 PM

      Yup. How about those two GWG in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012, bitter Sharks fan?

  2. jpelle82 - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    tavares on wing makes more sense to me. he’s got no speed, wing would suit him more on the big ice with the less skating involved…plus he’s got no game in his own zone so if he’s playing with bergeron like Rishaug tweeted he wouldnt have to worry about making it back because bergeron would have it under control.

    • jpelle82 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      really, that many thumbs down? whats the one knock on tavares since he was in juniors? look up the scouting report – google it…i’m not making it up. he’s always been slow. i thought that was a common knowledge thing that everybody just knew…

      • gratescott - Feb 10, 2014 at 3:20 PM

        @jpelle82, normally I agree with everything you write. Indeed the one thing Tavares had to work on was his skating. That’s exactly what he’s done every summer. Now every commentator outside of MSG remarks on how hard he’s worked to push himself to an elite playing-level this year, most in part to his improvement in skating.

        Would love to see him play LW with Getzlaf and Perry though.

      • jl9830 - Feb 10, 2014 at 3:39 PM

        Yes, those were the knocks on him when he was 18. If you’ve been frozen since 2009, it’s now 2014 and those are not issues for him anymore.

    • pfhockey - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:41 PM

      He’s actually got decent speed now, he is a strong skater though. He’s not so bad defensively too. He’s on pace for 75 takeaways this year which is a bit lower than Toews. I don’t know what you are saying.

  3. jpelle82 - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:31 PM

    not really surprised if duchene and st louis are 13th and 14th. duchene hasnt been great the last 2 months for the avalanche (except for yesterday’s 2 goals) and i expected the st louis add to just bump guys up not down a slot, he should fill the bottom slot as an injury add-on anyway.

  4. mshantz22 - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    As a wings fan I can assure you that Babcock’s lines are subject to change shift by shift.

  5. sjsharks66 - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    Funny seeing Marleau in between 2 of the most hated ducks by Sharks fans. Haha

    • ethanmacleod1685 - Feb 10, 2014 at 8:18 PM

      My thoughts exactly

  6. lonespeed - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    The top two lines are nice, but Canada is going to create major problems for each team they face when they run Tavares, Bergeron and Benn out there. All three of those players are hard workers. They are going to play with third-line energy but have the lethal scoring ability of a top-line.

    Team USA isn’t quite as talented as the top lines of other countries, but they have more depth and can better match up with Canada’s third. The Russians, Fins and Swedes lack the depth to deal with that third-line.

  7. sonofsamiam - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    I’d prefer Tav on the wing too, for the reasons previously stated. On top of that, Bergeron is an elite face off man.

    • canadiansportsfan77 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      I do agree that Bergeron is better suited to be on the centre line with Tavares on the wing. They may even tinker with it based on who they are matching up with. I have to imagine though that regardless of where Bergeron plays, he takes all faceoffs out there.

  8. patthehockeyfan - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:35 PM

    Holy crap! 1st and 2nd line aside, Tavares and Bergeron on the 3rd line; Getzlaf and Perry on the 4th. Keith and Doughty on defense. That is a team with a lot of FREAKIN’ TALENT!!!

  9. 19to77 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    I’m not sure how I feel about putting Bergeron, a Selke winner, with Tavares and Benn – they’re hardworking, offensively brlliant and not at all BAD in their own zone, but they’re not like him. He, Toews and Sharp would be in a class of their own as a shutdown line while still having ample firepower to threaten with.

    Still, it’s Babcock. He changes lines on the fly. And every single option available to him is basically “Drown the other poor bastards in All-Stars.” Good problems to have.

  10. imgoingtowichita - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Jpelle that WAS the knock on him coming out of juniors. He has drastically improved his skating each year and it is no longer considered a weakness. I’m not saying he is fast but he certainly doesn’t lag behind with Okposo or Vanek. His faceoff, similarly to 87 coming out of juniors is what will take more time to develop. Bergeron should take defensive zone draws on that line and leave the off zone to JT. Either way it is still a formidable third line.

    • jpelle82 - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:33 PM

      i think it still shows on the backcheck and when he doesnt have the puck…even in the offensive zone. he’s gotten better at creating separation, he’s stronger on his skates, and he’s got more of a burst when carrying the puck….but….he still looks generally slow to me when he doesnt have the puck, thats what i’m talking about here. either that or he’s lazy and only skates hard when he wants to….not sure which would be worse but its certainly noticeable when comparing him to his peers.

      • gratescott - Feb 10, 2014 at 3:32 PM

        The last thing you can call Tavares is lazy. Frustrated at times, I’m sure. But lazy… that’s so off the mark. Kid’s an animal.

      • jpelle82 - Feb 10, 2014 at 4:58 PM

        i dont know man. look at his corsi stats. his corsi hart (off + def) is dreadful (-9.9) and its a fair stat for a player’s all around ability. compared to bergeron (23.9), toews (20.9), datsyuk (15.5) he’s not even in the ballpark but i dont expect him to be, they are selke finalists every year. realistically he should be where maybe crosby (8.3) or even giroux (2.3) as far as centers go…but he’s not. he’s got the worst rating on team canada. putting him out there with bergeron is the best thing they could do – with bergeron playing his center and taking all the faceoffs. i’m not blindly hating on him…he’s just not that good away from the puck.

  11. yanks33 - Feb 10, 2014 at 11:51 PM

    Marleau starting over Duchene is laughable…and also if Subban is an extra and Bouwmeester starts then their is something seriously wrong with how this team is managed

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