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Posted On Friday, 02.21.2014 / 5:57 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Canadian women provide inspiration for men's team

SOCHI -- Canada had some inspiring visitors at its pregame skate Friday.

As the team prepared for its semifinal game against the United States at the training rink of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, sitting in the stands were two key players from Canada's women's team that won gold against the U.S. in a dramatic, come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory 12 hours earlier.

Forward Hayley Wickenheiser and starting goaltender Shannon Szabados were there to support the men in their bid to move past the U.S. and reach the gold medal game Sunday.

Posted On Wednesday, 02.19.2014 / 7:06 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Canada's Subban takes scratching in stride

SOCHI -- Goaltender Carey Price hit the ice for Canada's pregame skate Wednesday to prepare for the quarterfinal matchup with Latvia later that night and took his usual spot in front of his net.

His Montreal Canadiens teammate, defenseman P.K. Subban, immediately skated over, grabbed a pile of pucks and offered to warm up Price prior to the skate, diligently shooting pucks first to his glove hand, then his blocker side.

This is the role Subban has been given for Canada. He is there to practice and keep the players who will participate in the games sharp.

Aside from Canada's second game of the tournament, a 6-0 win against Austria, Subban has not been in uniform for any games.

It's not easy for the reigning Norris Trophy-winner, who plays 25 minutes a night for the Canadiens and leads them in scoring with 39 points in 59 games.

Posted On Wednesday, 02.19.2014 / 5:32 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

St. Louis back in Canada lineup vs. Latvia

SOCHI -- Martin St. Louis has built a career as a high-energy player, a water bug on the ice who keeps his powerful legs moving at all times to overcome his lack of size with his overwhelming will.

A player like that requires a certain degree of rhythm to play his game.

But even though St. Louis will be in the lineup for Canada when it plays Latvia in a 2014 Sochi Olympics quarterfinal Wednesday (noon ET, MSNBC, CBC), the Tampa Bay Lightning captain will have trouble creating that rhythm he so desperately needs to be effective.

"He's just a good, veteran player," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "The reality is we dress 13 forwards each game. One guy hardly gets on the ice. It's a hard, hard situation for people that play 22 minutes [in the NHL]. That's the way it is. You've got to find a way to help out when you get a chance."

Posted On Tuesday, 02.18.2014 / 9:28 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Canada juggles lines again, Kunitz back with Crosby

SOCHI -- Another day, another set of linemates for Sidney Crosby.

Canada coach Mike Babcock shuffled his deck of forwards again at practice Tuesday, reuniting the Pittsburgh Penguins duo of Chris Kunitz and Crosby on a line with Patrice Bergeron.

Crosby has had different linemates during Canada's three preliminary-round games here at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and it looks like he will again when Canada plays Latvia in the quarterfinals Wednesday (Noon ET, MSNBC, CBC).

"I think you prepared yourself for that when you got selected to the team," Kunitz said Tuesday after practice. "They're going to try to put the best combinations [for] our team … to win. Wherever they put that, now you want to go on the ice and have your best game."

Posted On Sunday, 02.16.2014 / 9:11 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Russia's Kovalchuk returns for third period

SOCHI -- Russia forward Ilya Kovalchuk returned for the third period of his team's Group A game against Slovakia on Sunday after missing the final minutes of the second with an apparent leg injury.

Kovalchuk was fighting for a puck with Slovakia forward Richard Panik in the Russian zone when the two fell awkwardly to the ice. Kovalchuk appeared to be in pain as he writhed on the ice for a few moments, but he was able to get up and limp toward the Russian bench under his own power.

Kovalchuk remained on the bench for a few minutes testing the leg and standing on it before leaving for the dressing room.

But when the third period started Kovalchuk was on the ice for the completion of a Russia power play.

Posted On Sunday, 02.16.2014 / 6:14 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Price in goal; Subban, St. Louis scratched for Canada

SOCHI -- It appears the starting goaltending job for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics is now Carey Price's to lose.

The Montreal Canadiens goaltender will get the nod over Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks when Canada plays Finland with first place in Group B on the line at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Sunday (12 p.m.; USA, CBC).

This game being Canada's final one before entering the knockout phase of the tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the lineup chosen by coach Mike Babcock and his coaching staff took on greater importance.

Babcock did acknowledge that reality Saturday when speaking to the media on Canada's day off, but he reminded everyone that it is now up to Price to hold on to the job he's been given.

"We had a plan coming in and we haven't changed our plan," Babcock said after Canada's morning skate Sunday. "I've said this many times; at the Olympic Games you're allowed one [goalie] change."

Posted On Saturday, 02.15.2014 / 5:38 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Babcock to take his time on goalie, lineup decisions

SOCHI -- Mike Babcock is in no hurry.

With an entire nation wondering what Canada's coach will do in terms of his starting goaltender and lineup for the final game of preliminary-round play, Babcock said Saturday he will take all the time he has available to him prior to the showdown with Finland on Sunday (Noon ET; USA, CBC).

"Believe me, these decisions aren't easy," Babcock said. "They're difficult because they're personal, because it's about a player. When you have an interaction with a player, that's personal. But it's not about them. It's about our country and it's about making the right decisions.
Posted On Thursday, 02.13.2014 / 3:54 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

St. Louis, Hamhuis in lineup for Canada's opener

SOCHI -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene will have to wait another day to make their Olympic debuts.

Canada coach Mike Babcock said Subban and Duchene will sit out its opening game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics against Norway on Thursday (12 p.m. ET, USA, CBC), but will play Friday against Austria (12 p.m. ET, USA, CBC).

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis, who was a late addition to the team when Steven Stamkos was ruled out due to injury, and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis will play Thursday, with Hamhuis making his Olympic debut.

Posted On Wednesday, 02.12.2014 / 11:28 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Canada's Vlasic enjoying life under the radar

SOCHI -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic has flown under the radar at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and it suits him just fine.

He's used to it.

Vlasic quietly has been going about his business becoming one of the NHL's most reliable shut-down defensemen for years, shielded somewhat from fans on the East Coast while he plays late at night with the Sharks.

Even on his own NHL team Vlasic plays in the shadows of higher-profile teammates like Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and his teammate on the Canadian team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Patrick Marleau.

Posted On Tuesday, 02.11.2014 / 2:58 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor / - Road to Sochi blog

Karlsson sees no benefit playing on bigger ice

SOCHI -- One of the players many considered would best be able to exploit the extra space available on the international ice surface was Sweden defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The Ottawa Senators offensive wizard has the smooth skating stride and ice vision that seems tailor made for the extra 15 feet of width on the ice rinks in use for the tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

But there is one person who doesn't agree with the perception that he will benefit from playing on the big ice: Erik Karlsson.

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