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Canada coach Babcock thrilled to have St. Louis

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who will play for the United States team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, summed up pretty well the news that Martin St. Louis would replace Steven Stamkos on the Canadian squad.

"They replace a great player with another great player," Howard said after the Red Wings' morning skate in preparation for their game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. "It's as simple as that."

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was more directly affected by the change because he'll be the head coach for the Canadian team.

"I feel bad for [Stamkos]," Babcock said. "He's one of the best players in the NHL. I love watching him play. High-powered kid. He's really learning how to play the game 200 feet. He would have been a real asset.

"In saying that, St. Louis has had a great year. He's had four great years since the last Olympics. It was really hard decisions when we were picking the team. He goes in as a group of one of 14 and then he's got to carve out whatever he can carve for himself, just like the rest of the guys. We're thrilled to have him. He's a great person. He competes hard. He's ultra-competitive and we want him to bring that."

Babcock was asked what St. Louis would bring to the Canadian Olympic team.

"He's a dynamic player," Babcock said. "He scores, but he's tenacious. He's on the puck. He plays [at] high-octane speed. He can play on your power play. He can play even strength. He could penalty-kill if we needed him. But I think he's a competitor. All you've got to do is go through his career. When I talked to [Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella] about him, he said the two most competitive people he's ever coached were [New York Rangers goalie Henrik] Lundqvist and him."

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