Babcock splits up Crosby and Kunitz for Finland game

19 Comments

SOCHI, Russia — Mike Babcock was hesitant to “steal” from one line that’s already working to make another work better, but it appears that’s what Team Canada’s head coach has done ahead of tonight’s game versus Finland.

At today’s pre-game skate, wingers Chris Kunitz and Martin St. Louis were off the first line with center Sidney Crosby, replaced by Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron, a pair of wingers that had previously drawn rave reviews from Babcock for their play with center John Tavares.

That Kunitz is off the first line is the most notable move, as it was the chemistry he’d shown with Crosby as linemates in Pittsburgh that — despite what Canada’s management group asserted — was a driving force for his inclusion on the roster.

That said, Kunitz will remain in the lineup, with St. Louis coming out. (Defenseman Dan Hamhuis will also draw back in, with P.K. Subban coming back out.)

“I think Kunitz did real good where he was,” said Babcock. “But to me this wasn’t about Kunitz, it was just about our overall team and just trying to find things that work.”

Babcock also noted he can always put the Benn-Tavares-Bergeron line back together.

“I’ve got those lines set up where the wingers can go back and forth seamlessly,” Babcock said. “Kunitz and Nash can go tonight with Crosby in a heartbeat. So we’ll see what happens.”

The expected lines tonight:

Jamie Benn-Sidney Crosby-Patrice Bergeron
Patrick Marleau-Jonathan Toews-Jeff Carter
Matt Duchene-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Chris Kunitz-John Tavares-Rick Nash/Patrick Sharp

Related: Team Canada’s net is Price’s to lose