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Canada's Subban takes scratching in stride

by Arpon Basu

SOCHI -- Goaltender Carey Price hit the ice for Canada's pregame skate Wednesday to prepare for the quarterfinal matchup with Latvia later that night and took his usual spot in front of his net.

His Montreal Canadiens teammate, defenseman P.K. Subban, immediately skated over, grabbed a pile of pucks and offered to warm up Price prior to the skate, diligently shooting pucks first to his glove hand, then his blocker side.

This is the role Subban has been given for Canada. He is there to practice and keep the players who will participate in the games sharp.

Aside from Canada's second game of the tournament, a 6-0 win against Austria, Subban has not been in uniform for any games.

It's not easy for the reigning Norris Trophy-winner, who plays 25 minutes a night for the Canadiens and leads them in scoring with 39 points in 59 games.

That's a higher point total than every defenseman on the Canadian team except Duncan Keith and Alex Pietrangelo, yet by all accounts, Subban is taking his diminished role here in stride.

"He's been excellent," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "He won the Norris Trophy. He's a proud guy, and he's here and he doesn't get to dress. Nobody is probably thrilled about that. Those are hard decisions that we make and in the end they've got to live it. That doesn't mean they've got to like it."

Babcock's pairings on defense have not changed since Canada arrived in Sochi, and he's had little reason to. Canada has allowed two goals in three games and its goaltenders have faced 58 shots, or just over 19 per game.

Though Subban is the only defenseman who isn't dressing, Dan Hamhuis is in somewhat the same position. He is Babcock's seventh defenseman, largely because he plays on the left side and also because he is sometimes used on the penalty kill, but he hardly plays. In Canada's most-recent game, a 2-1 overtime win against Finland to close the preliminary round, Hamhuis had seven shifts for 3:58 of ice time.

For each of them and the two forwards who are either scratched or dressed as the 13th man on the bench, it is a difficult adjustment to make in the hopes of earning a significant reward at the end -- an Olympic gold medal.

"You're here to be a good pro and a good teammate and as it's not about me and it's not him, it's about Canada," Babcock said. "As long as we all remember that, we're fine."

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