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Lucia shuffles defense pairings as goalies rotate

by Mike G. Morreale

MINNEAPOLIS -- United States National Junior Team coach Don Lucia was right back at it on Monday morning in the first of two practice sessions at Mariucci Arena on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

A second practice will be held Monday at 6 p.m. ET.

Lucia continued to shuffle his defensive combinations and made one notable shift among the forward lines, placing Jack Eichel (U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program) between Adam Erne (Quebec Remparts, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and Ryan Hartman (Plymouth Whalers, Ontario Hockey League). Eichel was with Erne and Riley Barber (Miami University) on Sunday night.

Barber was with Dan O'Regan (Boston University) and Nic Kerdiles (University of Wisconsin). Stefan Matteau (Albany Devils, American Hockey League) remained between Andrew Copp (University of Michigan) and Hudson Fasching (University of Minnesota). There was a lot of mixing and matching throughout the course of practice with the remaining eight players.

All three goalies continued to rotate on an equal basis between the pipes. Jon Gillies (Providence College) is expected to be the starter when the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship opens on Dec. 26 in Malmo, Sweden. Thatcher Demko (Boston College) and Anthony Stolarz (London Knights, OHL) will be competing for the backup role.

"The thing is, all three have a lot of patience, they are big, and they are positionally sound," U.S. assistant coach David Lassonde told "They have the ability to make the easy save and have shown the ability to make the more difficult save. We feel the position is a strength on our team."

It's possible that Gillies won't get much action, if any at all, against Minnesota State University in Tuesday's exhibition in Mankato. The thought here is that the coaching staff will want to pinpoint its backup, using Tuesday's game and two more exhibitions in Sweden later in the week as a barometer.

"Our plan right now is to take three goalies to Sweden," Lassonde said. "Jon had some injury issues during the course of the season [at Providence] which prevented him from practicing on a regular basis. So I think we need to be cognizant of that, and take that under consideration in terms of what we want to do with our goaltenders. I think it'll be important that we bring three of them."


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