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Canadian GM still mulling roster decisions as Upshall suspended for a game

Monday, 04.27.2009 / 3:38 PM / News

The Canadian Press

DUBENDORF, Switzerland - Doug Armstrong is a patient man.

With forward Scottie Upshall suspended for Canada's next game at the IIHF World Hockey Championship, the team's general manager might have been tempted to start searching for an immediate replacement.

But Armstrong wasn't burning up the phone lines or booking any flights on Monday.

Instead, he's decided to wait until the end of the first round of the NHL playoffs before adding any more players to his roster. The final choices aren't going to be rushed.

"We're still looking at our options there," said Armstrong. "These NHL series are getting pushed longer and longer right now. We want to take our time and bring the right people that we think can help fit in to what we have and not just react too quickly and then think we left something on the table."

Even though Armstrong is performing the GM's duties for the first time at a world championship, he's been here three times before as an assistant. He understands that it's a long tournament that can only be won with a cohesive group.

The current plan is to bring in two players - likely a forward and a defenceman - after the first playoff round ends. No matter which NHL teams are eliminated, Armstrong will have several enticing players to choose between.

In the meantime, Canada will make a few tweaks to its lineup for Tuesday's game against Slovakia (TSN, 2 p.m. ET). Alternate Joel Kwiatkowski has been activated and will play on the blue-line while Ian White skates at forward.

Upshall was apologetic one day after receiving a game misconduct and match penalty for hammering Hungarian forward Andras Benk with a hard open-ice hit. The play resembled several that have occurred in the NHL in recent years - Benk had his head down and was struck by Upshall's shoulder.

Under IIHF rules, the match penalty he received comes with an automatic one-game suspension.

"It's terrible to have to sit out a game and to put your team at a disadvantage without a guy," said Upshall. "I think with the group of guys we've got here we'll be able to focus. We've got a big game against Slovakia, it's going to be huge for us to get a big win there.

"This is just kind of going to blow over."

There really wasn't much debate about the hit at the world championship.

Most agreed that Upshall didn't have any intent to injure his opponent and that the hit would likely be permitted in the NHL. Even though Benk suffered a broken clavicle and underwent an operation on Sunday night, Hungarian coach Pat Cortina didn't take issue with the play.

"There's no hard feelings," he said. "You're taught to do that in the NHL."

The Canadian team has had a chance to ease into this world championship. Tournament-opening wins over Belarus and Hungary both came by a comfortable margin.

Slovakia won the world championship in 2002 and is usually considered among the top tier of teams, but it has yet to deliver a convincing performance here. It needed a last-second goal to edge Hungary before losing to Belarus in a shootout.

That doesn't change anything in the Canadian camp, where the players are constantly being reminded of how important it is to have a strong record in the round robin.

"You know the tournament's going to get stronger and the competition will get higher," said Armstrong. "What we're talking about as a staff is the importance of getting that No. 1 seed.

"You want the best possible matchup you can get (in the quarter-final)."

Canadian coach Lindy Ruff has four games to experiment with his lineup before the tournament reaches the must-win stage.

He plans to keep the Shane Doan-Steven Stamkos-Martin St. Louis trio intact but will make changes on the other three units because of the Upshall suspension.

James Neal has been elevated to a spot on the top line with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza while Shawn Horcoff will centre Matthew Lombardi and Mike Fisher. White joins Derek Roy and Colby Armstrong on the fourth unit.

The Canadian lineup has been assembled with plenty of grit and sandpaper.

"We've got that element on a couple lines," said Ruff. "This team is kind of built around a couple lines that add a little bit different dimension. It's going to be important in those (big) games.

"Players don't like playing against players like that."

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres