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#WCH2016: Tortorella not yet sure on No. 1 goalie

by Nicholas Cotsonika / Columbus Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS -- At least one thing gives Team USA hope in the World Cup of Hockey 2016: Goaltending.

Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider each is good enough to give Team USA a chance to win any given game, even if the it's overmatched in terms of skill, speed and possession against, say, Team Canada.

And this is a short tournament. The preliminary round is three games, with the top two teams in each four-team group advancing. The semifinals are single elimination. The final is best-of-3. If somebody gets hot for two weeks, anything can happen.

"Especially in this tournament, you need your goalie to steal games for you," Team USA center Ryan Kesler said. "You look at our goalies, they're all world-class goalies. There are a lot in this tournament, but I think we've got three of the best."

The problem is that Team USA must pick one in less-than-ideal circumstances.

How do you go with a hot goaltender when everyone is coming in cold in September, not in midseason like at the Olympics? How do you evaluate the goaltenders when you have three pretournament games?

Coach John Tortorella said Tuesday he didn't know who his No. 1 goaltender would be. He declined to say how he would play his goaltenders in the three pretournament games, but he said he wanted to decide on the depth chart before the third.

Team USA plays Team Canada at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Friday (7 p.m. ET; ESPNU, SN, TVA Sports) and at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports), and then plays Team Finland at Verizon Center in Washington on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports).

"There's certainly not enough time to make a true determination of who wins a job," Tortorella said after the second practice of training camp at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday. "I think we have a pretty good plan of how we're going to go about it here, and we'll make our decision.

"When we make the decision, it's going to [stink] for the other guys, plain and simple. It's not going to be fair. So I'll put that out there right now. It's not going to be fair to the other guys. But we have to eventually make a decision who's going to start."

Each goaltender has a strong argument.

Bishop, 29, was second in the NHL with a .926 save percentage last season and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the second time in three seasons. Although he never has played in a best-on-best tournament and struggled in his previous international competition, an .876 save percentage in five games at the 2013 IIHF World Championship, he has been outstanding in pressure situations for the Tampa Bay Lightning the past two seasons. Four times, twice in Game 7, he has clinched a series with a shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think they have a pretty good idea of where they want to go, and I think the only thing you can do is, when you get a chance to play, play well," Bishop said. "If I'm in there I feel like I'm capable of winning. And if those guys are in there I know they can do the same. I'm glad I don't have to make the decision."

Quick, 30, had a .918 save percentage last season, 21st in the NHL, but also was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy for the second time. He has won the Stanley Cup twice with the Los Angeles Kings, and he was the No. 1 goaltender at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Canada outplayed the U.S. in the semifinals but Quick made 36 saves in a 1-0 loss. That might give him the edge for the World Cup.

"Going into the tournament, [Team Canada is] looked at as the best team," Quick said. "You always want to play the best competition. Those are fun games to play. Those are entertaining and exciting. There's always a good atmosphere in the arena."

Schneider, 30, has never won the Stanley Cup, never been a Vezina finalist, never played in a best-on-best tournament. But he had a .924 save percentage last season with the New Jersey Devils and has a .925 save percentage for his NHL career, which better than Bishop (.920) or Quick (.916). To him, this is like when he played with Roberto Luongo with the Vancouver Canucks or Martin Brodeur with the Devils.

"We're competing, but we're also on the same team and we want the same thing," Schneider said after practice, still wearing his pads, which are decorated like the American flag.

"Part of being the guy is carrying the aura of a No. 1. You know what to do. You don't have to motivate yourself necessarily as much, or you don't need to be pushed like you maybe did when you were younger because you know what it takes to be the guy and stay there. But it's refreshing to kind of be in this role again where you're competing and nothing's clear cut and nothing's going to be given. I'm enjoying it, and I think these guys are too."

Tortorella isn't exactly enjoying it, even if it's a nice problem to have.

"It's very difficult," Tortorella said. "It's one I've thought about for months coming into this year."

To make the decision before the third pretournament game, he has less than a week left to think about it.

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