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

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


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.”

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
Leave a comment

Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.

Canucks say Markstrom (hamstring) out another week — could it be longer?

Leave a comment

Bit of uncertainty out of Vancouver regarding the health of backup goalie Jacob Markstrom.

Markstrom, a late drop from the Canucks’ 5-1 opening-night win over Calgary, has suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for another week, the club announced on Thursday.

With Markstrom out, backup duties will stay with AHL call-up Richard Bachman, who served as Ryan Miller‘s No. 2 on Wednesday.

Now, the focus turns to how long Bachman keeps those duties.

Per a Sportsnet report, Markstrom could miss up to three weeks of action with his injury. If that’s the case, Bachman will almost certainly be called into action; the Canucks will play eight games in 17 nights starting with Saturday’s home-opener against the Flames, which includes back-to-backs in Los Angeles and Anaheim on Oct. 12 and 13.

It would be asking a lot of the No. 1, 35-year-old Ryan Miller, to shoulder that entire load.

Bachman does have some NHL experience, with nearly 50 games to his credit. That includes a 3-2-0 record with the Oilers last year, in which he posted a 2.84 GAA and .911 save percentage.