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Canada picks Fucale to start World Juniors opener

by NHL.com Staff / NHL.com

Zachary Fucale will start in goal for Canada when it opens the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship Friday against Slovakia at Bell Centre in Montreal (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

Hockey Canada made the announcement Thursday, choosing Fucale, a Montreal Canadiens draft pick, rather than Eric Comrie, a Winnipeg Jets prospect.

"We're comfortable with both goalies," Canada coach Benoit Groulx said, according to TSN. "We just think it was normal to start with the goalie who was there last year and give him a chance."

Fucale played five games for Canada at the 2014 WJC, going 2-2-0 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .902 save percentage. He made 30 saves in Canada's 2-1 loss to Russia in the bronze medal game.

He told TSN that having the experience of playing in the tournament last year will help him this year.

"I’ve been through a lot the last year," Fucale said. "I've learned lessons and that's helped me to improve. I'm in a much better place now than I was last year. I'm happy about it and I'm excited to get it going."

Groulx only named his starter for the opener; he would not comment about who his starting goaltender would be for Canada's second game, Saturday against Germany.

"Tomorrow I'm starting and it is what it is," Fucale said. "Afterwards if it's Comrie or me I don’t think the guys in the room care that much."

Canada had a team picture and then a practice Thursday. According to TSN, one notable change was Winnipeg Jets prospect Nicolas Petan moving to center after playing left wing in Canada's pre-tournament game against Switzerland on Tuesday.

"I just feel more comfortable in the middle, with getting the puck more and working down low and just controlling the play," Petan told TSN.

Petan had Nicholas Paul (Ottawa Senators) and Robby Fabbri (St. Louis Blues) on his wings.

Other Canada lines Thursday were the same as they were Tuesday, with Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres) centering Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes) and Anthony Duclair (New York Rangers); top 2015 NHL Draft prospect Connor McDavid between Nick Ritchie (Anaheim Ducks) and Canada captain Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators); and Frederik Gauthier (Toronto Maple Leafs) centering 2015 draft prospect Lawson Crouse and Jake Virtanen (Vancouver Canucks). Brayden Point (Tampa Bay Lightning) was the extra forward.

The defense pairings also were the same as Tuesday, with Darnell Nurse (Edmonton Oilers) paired with Shea Theodore (Anaheim Ducks); Joshua Morrissey (Winnipeg Jets) with Madison Bowey (Washington Capitals); and Samuel Morin (Philadelphia Flyers) with Joe Hicketts (Detroit Red Wings). Dillon Heatherington (Columbus Blue Jackets) was the seventh defenseman.

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