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Canada's Vlasic enjoying life under the radar

by Arpon Basu

SOCHI -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic has flown under the radar at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and it suits him just fine.

He's used to it.

Vlasic quietly has been going about his business becoming one of the NHL's most reliable shut-down defensemen for years, shielded somewhat from fans on the East Coast while he plays late at night with the Sharks.

Even on his own NHL team Vlasic plays in the shadows of higher-profile teammates like Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and his teammate on the Canadian team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Patrick Marleau.

Vlasic's anonymity perhaps is best illustrated by looking at the Norris Trophy voting results from last season. On the list of 25 defensemen who received at least one fifth-place vote, Vlasic's name is nowhere to be found.

In fact Vlasic never has received a single point in the voting for the Norris Trophy, making him the only Canada defenseman who can say that.

Now Vlasic is on the biggest stage of his hockey career, slotted into a spot alongside Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty on Canada's second defense pairing. Surely this will give Vlasic the exposure he deserves.

If it does or doesn't, Vlasic said he really doesn't care.

"That isn't much of a factor for me," Vlasic said after Canada practice Wednesday. "I'm a quiet guy. I just do what I do on the ice. Other than that, as long as your peers and coaches know you, to me that's what's most important."

When Vlasic was placed next to Doughty at Canada's first practice Monday, it proved coach Mike Babcock not only knew him but liked him as well.

With Doughty expected to log important minutes for Canada, Vlasic probably will be asked to do the same as his defense partner.

Was he given any kind of advance notice for the upcoming challenge?

"No, I didn't know," he said. "I'll probably be in more of a defensive role, but whatever it is I'll play the way I have been the last four years. That's why I’m here."

Vlasic admits watching his Canadian teammates practice can be impressive at times and he feels privileged to be sharing the same ice with them. The Canadian team is a lot like an All-Star team in that way, where young players often are awe-struck to be sharing a dressing room with some of the veterans on the team they grew up idolizing.

Except Vlasic is in no position to make that comparison.

"I haven't really had too many All-Star games in my career," Vlasic said. "This is better."

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