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Paired with Sid, Iginla makes the most of his ice time

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- Jarome Iginla was willing to sacrifice his ice time for the maple leaf on his sweater. He did -- but not without contributing in a big way and finding instant chemistry with Canada's most important player.

After starting Patrice Bergeron on the right side of Sidney Crosby, coach Mike Babcock decided to move Iginla up from the fourth-line rotation to play on what could be called Canada's top line in the second period, with Crosby and Rick Nash.

The result should make you think that trio will be together again Thursday when Canada takes on Switzerland.

Iginla notched a hat trick, Crosby had three assists and Nash added two assists as they combined for eight points in an 8-0 rout of Norway on Tuesday night in Canada's opening game of pool play.

"Part of playing for Team Canada is being ready to do whatever role is asked, whether it's being on an energy line or whether it's a chance to be on the PP," Iginla said diplomatically. "You get to play in all different combinations and guys you admire around the League. I imagine the lines will still change a lot, but we're ready as a group for whatever Mike decides."

Babcock said he made the switch because he noticed Iginla's hunger. It helped that he already knew what Crosby, Iginla and Nash could create since that was the most talked about line at Canada's Olympic orientation camp in Calgary back in August.

They had chemistry then and it appeared to come back instantly.

Iginla scored a power-play goal on their first shift together when he rifled a one-timer past Norway goalie Pal Grotnes thanks to a great fake and pretty feed into the high slot from Crosby. Nash planted his big body in front of the net as a screen.

It was Canada's first goal of the night.

"I think that it relayed a bit off of summer camp," Nash told of the chemistry the trio had. "It took a period just to find our (Crosby and Nash) stride together and then Iggy was on there and he helped it out."

They also combined to produce Canada's prettiest goal of the night in the third period. Crosby gave the puck to Nash, who was cutting through the left circle. Nash feathered a pass through the blue paint to Iginla, who had a wide open net to shoot at.

"Oh, it was fun," Iginla said of playing with Crosby and Nash. "I got that one (on the one-timer) and the one into the wide open net after they tic-tac-toed it a bit. We got some chances tonight, as I thought every line did."

Babcock said he told Iginla before the game that he wants him to use his size as an asset. He didn't need it on his goals, but he otherwise used his size, as did Nash. Crosby gets freed up to make plays when he's got such big bodies as linemates.

"We need (Iginla) to be a physical presence for us, to be really hard to play against," Babcock said. "He doesn't need to score to help us, but obviously he did tonight. But, that's what we're looking for, and Bergeron was just a very useful player for us."

Bergeron wound up in the fourth-line rotation with Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews and Brenden Morrow. He played more minutes than Iginla, 12:50 to 9:48, but that's because he was on the penalty kill and Canada needed to kill off five minors in the game.

Crosby played 15:30, well below the average of 21:49 that he plays nightly with the Penguins. Nash skated 21 shifts for 13:50 of ice time. He's also used to playing more than 21 minutes per game in the NHL.

Dan Boyle was actually the only Canadian player who skated for more than 20 minutes, but that was by design by Babcock because he wants to spread out the minutes and he has a 13th forward and seventh defensemen at his disposal.

"They're all high-end guys, but they're used to playing 21 minutes and if you look down and they have 13 next to their name or 14, it's hard for them," Babcock said. "Our group has to understand that they are all going to play, but we have to get the tempo way higher."

He likely wasn't targeting Iginla, Crosby and Nash with that comment.

"It was a fun game," Iginla said with a cheek to cheek smile. "As a team we got better as it went on and we enjoyed it, too. That's going to be a big part of it. We know the pressure builds but we have to enjoy it, take it in and have fun."

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