UFA, Russia - Drama kept dogging Canada on the eve of the world junior hockey championship.
Just a few days after hastily summoning Mark McNeill from home to replace an injured forward, Canada will be without an important player for their first three games of the tournament.
The International Ice Hockey Federations issued a three-game suspension to forward Boone Jenner for his check on a Swedish defenceman in an exhibition game.
So Canada is currently minus their top faceoff man, key penalty killer, third-line centre plus a player with previous tournament experience all in one package.
"He's definitely a big loss for the hockey club," Canadian head coach Steve Spott said Tuesday after practice at Ufa Arena.
Jenner will miss Canada's games against Germany on Boxing Day, Slovakia on Friday and the United States on Sunday. The Oshawa Generals forward is eligible to return for the final Pool B game before the medal round against Russia on New Year's Eve.
"Obviously it's really tough," Jenner said quietly. "I really want to play in this tournament and be out there with my teammates. I don't want to be in the crowd watching.
"There's nothing I can do now. The ruling was made and it was three games. I'm going to sit out the three games, cheer on the team and be ready for the fourth."
Spott slotted McNeill of the Prince Albert Raiders into centre on Canada's third line. When Charles Hudon of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens was forced off the team with a back injury late last week, McNeill rushed to catch up the team in Finland over the weekend prior to the their flight to Ufa.
Swedish defenceman Jesper Pettersson suffered a broken wrist and a dislocated shoulder when Jenner checked him Saturday in a pre-tournament game in Finland.
The Swede was removed from the ice on a stretcher. Jenner was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging.
The International Ice Hockey Federation meted out additional discipline late Monday.
"The video material indicated that the hit was late and delivered with no intention to play the puck and with Pettersson being in a vulnerable position," the IIHF said in a statement. "It was Jenner's intention to deliver the forceful check in spite of having the opportunity to at least make an attempt to avoid contact on Pettersson.
"The hit was delivered far too late. This resulted in an injury to Sweden's Pettersson and for this Jenner is to be held accountable."
Spott didn't want to dwell on the IIHF's decision lest it become a distraction for his team.
"It's disappointing, but we respect and understand the IIHF's decision saying that there was an injury on the play and we hope the Swedish player is going to be OK long-term," he said.
It's not the first time Jenner has run afoul of the IIHF's disciplinary committee.
The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect was suspended for one game of the 2012 world junior championship for spearing Russian captain Evgeni Kuznetsov in the semifinal. Jenner was unable to play in the bronze-medal games, which Canada won.
"I guess it's a coincidence that it's happened two year in a row," Jenner said. "It's not the greatest thing to happen."
Spott says he didn't call up another player to replace Jenner in the lineup because the suspension was limited to three games.
"We had a plan going in based on the games," the coach explained. "We knew one, two or three . . . that Boone would stay and be a part of our club against the Russians.
Spott shuffled his third and fourth lines in Tuesday's practice in preparation to play without Jenner. McNeill was between wingers Phillip Danault of the Victoriaville Tigres and JC Lipon of the Kamloops Blazers.
Halifax Mooseheads forwards Nathan MacKinnon, 17, will centre the fourth line with wingers Ty Rattie of the Portland Winter Hawks and Anthony Camara of the Barrie Colts.
The other two forward lines remain intact. The top trio of captain Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers, Mark Scheifele of the Barrie Colts and Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs is expected to produce a lot of goals for Canada.
Ryan Strome and his Niagara IceDogs teammate Brett Ritchie and Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads make up Canada's second line.
McNeill, a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, is playing catchup to his teammates. Unlike them, he didn't have several days of pre-competition camp in Finland to ease him through jet lag en route to Ufa.
"I'm still adjusting to the time frame and everything and long hours on the plane," the Edmonton native said. "I've got a couple of good skates under me now and I'm feeling a lot better.
"The docs been really great telling us when to sleep and not to sleep and that's been key. I think I'm getting a lot better and tomorrow I'll be even better."
Spott did not reveal his starting goaltender for the opener against Germany following practice. He said he would inform either Jordan Binnington or Malcolm Subban of his decision later Tuesday.
Canada is heavily favoured against the Germans, who earned a promotion back to the top-tier world championship this year.
Spott will coach against one of his Kitchener Rangers players. Tobias Rieder, an Edmonton Oilers draft pick, plays defence for the Germans and for Spott's Rangers.
"We know teams like this can be dangerous because when they play against us, we're going to see their best," the Canadian coach said. "We know they're going to be motivated. It's up to us to find that level of motivation ourselves."