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Pogge Plays for Canada

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs
May 2, 2006

MINSK, Belarus (CP) -- Marc Habscheid awaits reinforcements.

For an exhibition game against Belarus on Tuesday, the head coach of Canada's team for the upcoming IIHF world hockey championships had a patchwork lineup of nine NHL players plus national team skaters and juniors who won't be on the roster for the tournament in Riga, Latvia.

Belarus won 4-3.

Justin Pogge has had an unbelievable season with Canada and in junior.

Canada opens tournament play against Denmark on Friday and Habscheid remains uncertain which NHL players will swell the ranks.

Defenceman Dan Hamhuis of the Nashville Predators flew to Latvia on Tuesday and defenceman Stephane Robidas of the Dallas Stars and forward Scott Hartnell of the Predators arrive Wednesday.

At least another eight NHL players are needed. Ken Holland, the general manager of the Detroit Red Wings and also GM of Canada's world team, will be talking to more players as more first-round series end this week.

"We decided that we wanted to wait as long as we could and see how the NHL playoffs filtered out,'' Habscheid explained. "It's a process.

"We talk daily. We're happy with the guys we have but we're definitely eagerly awaiting some reinforcements. We have to be patient and consider the big picture.''

The game against Belarus was Canada's only tournament prep.

Scoring for Canada were Kyle Calder of the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Derrick Walser, who plays for a club team in Berlin.

Marc Denis of the Columbus Blue Jackets allowed two goals in the first period, Alex Auld of the Vancouver Canucks blanked Belarus in the second, and junior recruit Justin Pogge was beaten twice in the third.

Belarus goaltender Andrei Mezin was the first star.

"You never want to lose a game but we only had seven NHL skaters,'' said Habscheid, who went with three lines and five defencemen. "Everything taken into consideration, the guys worked hard but they're goalie was very good for them.

"We outshot them pretty bad and he played really well. We're just gearing up for the start of the tournament.''

Calder served as captain.

"A lot of the guys hadn't skated for two weeks and we just got thrown together,'' said the native of Mannville, Alta. "(Belarus) got two power-play goals in the third.

"We tried to battle back and we got one, but their goalie played awesome for them at the end. We got tons of chances and couldn't bang it in.''

Like Habscheid, he's wondering who his new teammates might be.

"You wonder about who's coming and when, but we're not worried about it,'' said Calder. "We know there are good players coming.''

Some NHL players whose teams were eliminated in the last few days have said they might join the team, and Holland, assistant GM Mike Barnett of the Phoenix Coyotes and Habscheid are awaiting confirmations.

"I know Kenny and Mike are working hard getting the calls out, and we talk a lot,'' said Habscheid. "We definitely need reinforcements and, in time, we'll get them all.''

Other players named to the team by Hockey Canada to date are defencemen Nick Schultz of the Minnesota Wild and Brad Stuart of the Bruins, and forwards Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brad Boyes of the Bruins and Mike Comrie of the Coyotes.

Joining them for the exhibition game were four national team members who played in Europe this season: defencemen Walser and Micki Dupont (Berlin), and forwards Glen Metropolit (Helsinki Jokerit) and Stacey Roest (Rapperswill-Jona, Switzerland).

The four could play Friday if more NHL players can't make it by then. Once they play a game, they must remain on the roster. With 25 players to a roster, there's room for that leeway.

Added only for the Tuesday exhibition from the national junior team were: Pogge (Calgary, WHL); defenceman Kris Letang (Val D'Or, QMJHL); and forwards Michael Blunden (Erie, OHL), Kyle Chipchura (Prince Albert, Sask., WHL) and Guillaume Latendresse (Drummondville, QMJHL).

Other teams in Canada's pool will be Norway, which Canada plays Sunday, and the United States, which provides the opposition Tuesday.

The top three teams from four pools will advance to the second round.

Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Latvia form a pool while Sweden, Switzerland, Italy and Ukraine are grouped together and Russia, Slovakia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are in the remaining pool.

The gold-medal game is Sunday, May 21.

Canada won the title in 2003 and in 2004 and finished second to the Czech Republic in 2005.

Denmark's team includes Jannik Hansen of the Portland Winter Hawks. Hansen, the first Dane to play in the WHL in its 40-year history, earned 13 points (7-6) in the Hawks' 12 playoff games.

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