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Reimer Could Be Starter For Canada

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

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The core of the Canadian team is pretty much intact for the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

With 12 forwards, five defencemen and two goaltenders having signed up for the trip to Slovakia, general manager Dave Nonis doesn't plan to add any more players before NHL teams start getting knocked out of the playoffs.

``We felt that if we could put together a strong group right off the bat that it would allow them to come together and do some of the growing pains that you need to become a team,'' Nonis said Wednesday night. ``We didn't want to leave too many spots open. We felt that with the guys we were able to add that we were fortunate to put together a pretty strong group.''

There is still plenty of time before Canada opens the tournament in Kosice, Slovakia with a game against Belarus on April 29. Ken Hitchcock's coaching staff and the first wave of players travel to Paris next week and will play an exhibition game against France on April 24.

It's been a busy few days for Nonis and the management team as they've worked the phones to add players to the roster.

The roster features a number of players that should be able to contribute offensively. Led by veteran forwards Rick Nash and Jason Spezza, there are seven 20-goal scorers among the group.

Nash brings the most experience, having competed in three other world championships - he was MVP of the 2007 tournament - and two Olympic Games.

A number of young up-and-comers will get another opportunity to make a name for themselves in international competition.

John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Evander Kane and Jordan Eberle are back for the second straight year and will be looking to atone for a disappointing seventh-place finish in Germany last May, the country's worst at a world championship since 1992.

``We've got a very good mix between youth and some experience,'' said Nonis. ``We're very fortunate I think to get some guys like Rick Nash and Spezza and (Brent) Burns and Dion (Phaneuf), guys who have played at the worlds before.

``To add some of the youth and exuberance ... those guys were so excited just to have the opportunity, I think that energy's going to be great for our team going forward.''

IIHF rules allow a team to register as many as 25 players for the event so Nonis could potentially add six more to his roster.

Even though the GM plans to allocate one of those spots to another goalie, it doesn't necessarily mean that James Reimer and Devan Dubnyk won't end up carrying the load in net.

``We told both James and Devan that we don't know where they're going to play - they might be the No. 1, they might be the No. 2,''' said Nonis. ``They're pretty young guys so you look at them and say there's not a whole lot of experience. But the flipside of that is both of those players were No. 1 goaltenders for significant stretches during the course of this season.

``They've both played some pretty big games and we're comfortable that if those are our two goaltenders throughout the whole tournament we'll be fine.''

Two additions will likely be made to the blue-line. Three of the five defencemen who have committed to go bring previous experience at this event - Phaneuf, Burns and Luke Schenn - while Alex Pietrangelo has won gold at the world junior championship.

Nonis acknowledged that his job was complicated by some players taking a pass due to injury, but as an executive with the Toronto Maple Leafs he understands the positive side of that equation, too.

``It's the great thing about NHL players, they play through a lot and they find a way to hide things,'' said Nonis. ``There's a lot of guys who played excellent down the stretch, some of them that we would have liked to have added, that played through some significant injuries.

``There's a lot of guys needing repairs at this time of year.''

It's been four years since the country last won the event. Nash and Phaneuf were part of that golden group and will be looking to repeat the experience in Slovakia.

A look at the players committed to playing for Canada at the IIHF World Hockey Championship:

Forwards: Cal Clutterbuck, Minnesota Wild; Matt Duchene, Colorado Avalanche; Jordan Eberle, Edmonton Oilers; Evander Kane, Atlanta Thrashers; Andrew Ladd, Atlanta Thrashers; Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets; Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators; Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes; Chris Stewart, St. Louis Blues; John Tavares, N.Y. Islanders; Antoine Vermette, Columbus Blue Jackets; Travis Zajac, New Jersey Devils.

Brent Burns, Minnesota Wild; Marc Methot, Columbus Blue Jackets; Dion Phaneuf, Toronto Maple Leafs; Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues; Luke Schenn, Toronto Maple Leafs.

Goalies: Devan Dubnyk, Edmonton Oilers; James Reimer, Toronto Maple Leafs.
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