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Babcock to take his time on goalie, lineup decisions

by Arpon Basu

SOCHI -- Mike Babcock is in no hurry.

With an entire nation wondering what Canada's coach will do in terms of his starting goaltender and lineup for the final game of preliminary-round play, Babcock said Saturday he will take all the time he has available to him prior to the showdown with Finland on Sunday (Noon ET; USA, CBC).

"Believe me, these decisions aren't easy," Babcock said. "They're difficult because they're personal, because it's about a player. When you have an interaction with a player, that's personal. But it's not about them. It's about our country and it's about making the right decisions.

"The great thing about it is we don't have to make a decision [Saturday] yet. We can just talk about it, kick it around. We spoke last night, [executive director] Steve [Yzerman] and I spoke [Saturday] morning, I spoke to the coaching staff here [Saturday]. We'll kick it around all day, by [Sunday] we'll have a plan."

Babcock said he would inform goaltenders Roberto Luongo and Carey Price later Saturday who will start the game that will determine the winner of Group B, thereby earning a bye into the quarterfinals.

Luongo is coming off a 23-save shutout in a 6-0 victory against Austria on Friday, one day after Price made 19 saves in a 3-1 victory against Norway.

Babcock was asked at a news conference inside the Main Media Center of the 2014 Sochi Olympics if he and the management team led by Yzerman had a plan regarding the goalie rotation prior to arriving in Sochi.

"Yes, we did," Babcock said. "They've both been real good. We haven't changed our minds."

Babcock and his staff must also decide who will sit out the game against Finland in order to make room for forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Dan Hamhuis, who didn't dress for Canada's 6-0 win against Austria on Friday but will play against Finland. The principal candidates to be scratched are defenseman P.K. Subban and forward Matt Duchene, who sat out Canada's opening game, a 3-1 win against Norway on Thursday.

There is an assumption that after having two games to tinker with his lineup, Babcock will ice the group against Finland that he intends to use in the knockout portion of the tournament.

Not so fast, says Babcock.

"No, I wouldn't say that," he said. "I'd say I'm going to put the lineup [Sunday] that gives us the best chance to win [Sunday]. But if we need to change, that's why we brought everyone. Now, if it's not broke, why fix it? After Game 1 you could have said the lineup's fine, but we had that opportunity. So you're right in assuming it's getting…let's face it, right away it's Game 7. But we have one more game that it isn't."

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