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WJC 2013: U.S. short one defenseman vs. Czechs

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Remember when Team USA's final roster move caused all that noise? In the Americans' most important game of this World Junior tournament, it could have the biggest impact.

Head coach Phil Housley elected to keep rugged defenseman Pat Sieloff (Windsor Spitfires) on the roster and sent smooth-skating Matt Grzelcyk home to Boston University, and there was a lot of discussion as to whether it was the right move for the team. Was Sieloff, a stay-at-home blueliner, the person Team USA wants to plug in to more minutes in case of injury or suspension?

They will soon find out, as Shayne Gostisbehere was suspended for the quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic for his major penalty and game misconduct on Monday. Late in the first period, Gostisbehere was skating alongside Slovakia' Matus Matis and appeared to slash/spear Matis in the groin area. Matis dropped to the ice in obvious pain, and as a result of the play, Gostisbehere was ejected and the IIHF reviewed the play.

After the review, the IIHF's disciplinary committee deemed the action to be "reckless" and, in a statement, said they felt that Gostisbehere had to be held accountable.

"Based on the received verbal Referee Supervisor report, the written Referees’ report, the video material, and the abovementioned facts and after consultation amongst the Disciplinary Panel, it came to the conclusion that the action was not only dangerous to the safety of the opposing player but also unnecessary and avoidable," the IIHF release stated.

With Gostisbehere out for tomorrow's game, Team USA's defense pairs may look something like this:

Jake McCabe - Seth Jones
Mike Reilly - Connor Murphy
Pat Sieloff - Jacob Trouba

On the surface, these pairings make the most sense. The first two pairings played together in the 9-3 win over Slovakia and Housley really liked the mix, and in particular, the McCabe-Jones duo looked very strong. Jones has been scuffling a bit during the tournament, but his game against the Slovaks was easily his best to date.

The suspension could also lead to a larger offensive role for Reilly, as Gostisbehere was the primary left-shot defenseman on the U.S. power play and one of the club's best puck-movers. Reilly has gotten better with each passing game, so it's not a longshot to suggest he'll see more ice tomorrow in the quarterfinal game.

Sieloff and Trouba are very close friends who grew up playing hockey together in Michigan, and both had their names called by Canadian clubs at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh (Trouba to Winnipeg, Sieloff to Calgary). Trouba's four goals are tied for the most at the tournament, a bit surprising considering his reputation as a two-way defender with an emphasis on physical play.

He and Sieloff could provide the hard-nosed, "grinding" element that the Americans are going to need more of in order to advance to the semifinals. The Czechs are a tough draw, and a that loves to sit back and wait for opponents to make mistakes. Discipline through the Team USA lineup is going to be pivotal if Housley's crew has hopes of reconvening with Canada for a shot at the gold medal game.

The quarterfinal matchup with the Czech Republic gets under way at 4 a.m. ET from Ufa, Russia, and the game will be aired live on the NHL Network. Be sure to join me and tweet along (@RobMixer) as Team USA tries to keep its golden dream alive.

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