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:
Sounds like Tavares centres Bergeron and Benn, while Marleau plays with Perry and Getzlaf. That’s from the players themselves.
— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) February 10, 2014
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.