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Crosby, Toews lead Canada's Olympic camp roster

by Mike G. Morreale
Hockey Canada took the first major step in defense of its Olympic gold medal Monday by announcing the 47 players invited to the country's orientation camp, set to take place in Calgary from Aug. 25-28.

Five goalies, 17 defensemen and 25 forwards will battle for an opportunity to represent Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The men's hockey tournament begins Feb. 12 and concludes with the gold-medal game Feb. 23 at 7 a.m. ET.

According to Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, the management team will need to pare the roster to the required 25-player Olympic roster maximum approximately five to six weeks before the start of the Games. Yzerman said he expects the final breakdown to include 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies.

"We're not putting together a team for an NHL All-Star Game … we're putting together the best possible team we can to compete against the best players in the world and try to win a gold medal," Yzerman said during a conference call. "Part of that comes with players that can do specific things for us."

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will join four of his teammates at the camp. Three Staal brothers will be there, as well as four players each from the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins, including captain Sidney Crosby. The Canadians, who defeated the United States 3-2 in overtime to win gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, will be in a pool with Finland, Norway and Austria in Russia.

Earlier Monday, it was announced Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings will return to coach Canada's Olympic team. Joining him on the coaching staff are St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff and Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien.

Babcock, Hitchcock and Ruff were behind the bench for Canada's 2010 Olympic championship.

"I think the big thing for our coaching staff and players is that they understand how we're going to play and understand that the players aren't going to play as much as they normally do on their [NHL] teams," Babcock said. "That will be a different adjustment.

"It's accepting the role and playing the best you possibly can. The players we choose must be able to skate and be willing to play without the puck. It comes back to playing for Canada; it's not going to be about any of the individuals. It's about Canada and executing our plan, so we have to find their game within our game."

Crosby will be joined at the camp by Penguins teammates Kris Letang on defense and forwards Chris Kunitz and James Neal. From the Blackhawks along with Toews will be defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, forward Patrick Sharp and goalie Corey Crawford.

New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal will accompany his brothers, Carolina Hurricanes forwards Eric Staal and Jordan Staal. Representing the Sharks will be defensemen Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and forwards Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.

The average age of the camp roster is 27 years, six months and 25 days. But just because the camp roster trends young, some veteran players still could make it onto the final roster.

"I found over the course of my time, whether it's Stanley Cup Playoffs or international events, that in these big games, a lot of those veteran guys are guys you rely on," Yzerman said. "You look back to Vancouver, and when it came time for the guys to step up, the [Chris] Prongers and [Scott] Niedermayers were important. We want to put the best team on the ice, but there is great value in that veteran leadership.

"Having said that, we've got to make room for some of these younger players to come in."

The oldest player invited is 37-year-old right wing Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning. St. Louis last season became the oldest player in League history to win a scoring title after totaling 60 points in 48 games. The youngest player named is Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall, who turns 22 in November.

Yzerman said he isn't concerned over the fact the team has invited an excessive amount of centers to camp.

"We'll have 14 forwards [in Sochi], not 14 centers," Yzerman said. "I can't say how many centermen we'll have. In the past we've moved centers to wing, if necessary. The reality is, we will be forced to do that because we're deep down the middle. We have no specific number, but we're comfortable moving a few guys. It's not a big concern for us."

Canada opens round-robin play at the Olympics on Feb. 13 against Norway at noon ET. The Canadians also will compete against Austria and Finland in round-robin competition. The team closes its preliminary-round schedule in Group B on Feb. 16 against Finland.

"Each country is loaded and we understand that, so we're going to have to choose the right balance, but I really like our group," Babcock said. "Up front we have a whole bunch of guys who can skate, move the puck and are dangerous offensively. On the back end, we have a group of solid skaters that can be active, so our defense can play with and without the puck."

The NHL will pause its regular-season schedule from Feb. 9-25, 2014, while the Olympics are played.


Patrice Bergeron (Boston) Jeff Carter (Los Angeles) Logan Couture (San Jose)
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh) Matt Duchene (Colorado) Jordan Eberle (Edmonton)
Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim) Claude Giroux (Philadelphia) Taylor Hall (Edmonton)
Chris Kunitz (Pittsburgh) Andrew Ladd (Winnipeg) Milan Lucic (Boston)
Brad Marchand (Boston) Rick Nash (NY Rangers) James Neal (Pittsburgh)
Corey Perry (Anaheim) Mike Richards (Los Angeles) Patrick Sharp (Chicago)
Eric Staal (Carolina) Jordan Staal (Carolina) Martin St. Louis (Tampa Bay)
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) John Tavares (NY Islanders) Joe Thornton (San Jose)
Jonathan Toews (Chicago)
Karl Alzner (Washington) Jay Bouwmeester (St. Louis) Dan Boyle (San Jose)
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles) Mike Green (Washington) Dan Hamhuis (Vancouver)
Travis Hamonic (NY Islanders) Duncan Keith (Chicago) Kris Letang (Pittsburgh)
Marc Methot (Ottawa) Dion Phaneuf (Toronto) Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis)
Brent Seabrook (Chicago) Marc Staal (NY Rangers) P.K. Subban (Montreal)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (San Jose) Shea Weber (Nashville)
Corey Crawford (Chicago) Braden Holtby (Washington) Roberto Luongo (Vancouver)
Carey Price (Montreal) Mike Smith (Phoenix)
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