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Star-studded Canada will be ‘a work in progress,’ says Babcock

Feb 13, 2014, 4:46 AM EDT

Canada's head coach Babcock directs his team during their men's team ice hockey practice at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Reuters

SOCHI, Russia — The starting goalie will be Carey Price, backed up by Roberto Luongo. The healthy scratches will be P.K. Subban and Matt Duchene. Now that the line-up decisions have been made, Team Canada can begin its quest to repeat as Olympic gold medalists.

Just don’t expect magic right off the bat tonight, even against tournament minnow Norway, or tomorrow versus the long shots from Austria.

“We’re just gonna be a work in progress,” head coach Mike Babcock said Friday after practice.

Babcock was asked how much of the structure of Team Canada will mirror that of his Detroit Red Wings.

“Lots of it is what we do in the NHL,” he said, “then maybe a few tweaks because of the size of the rink, neutral zone-wise, penalty kill-wise, even power play.

“No one talks about how short the end zone is. It’s a big difference. There’s lots of things that are a little bit different. We’ll find out as we go.”

On an Olympic-sized rink, the distance from the blue line to the goal line is six feet shorter than on an NHL rink. Olympic rinks are also wider and have longer neutral zones, with more space behind the net.

“Obviously it’s an adjustment going from the NHL-sized ice to the Olympic-sized ice,” defenseman Duncan Keith. “The more we play on it, the more comfortable we’re going to get.”

How much chemistry has the team been able to build in limited practice time?

“It’s coming along,” Keith said. “Obviously it’s not where it would be if we were together for six months. But there’s so much skill on the team that hopefully we can gel quickly, and keep getting better.”

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