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Revamped Crosby line finally clicks

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- Sidney Crosby says he never worried about the line combinations working, and Mike Babcock claims he made the move for the other guys and not for Crosby.

It doesn't matter anymore.

Eric Staal worked well with Crosby and Jarome Iginla in Canada's 8-2 win over Germany on Tuesday, and Rick Nash did just fine playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

In the process of surviving its first elimination game and earning a chance to have a showdown with Russia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Canada may have also found lines that could work as it continues its longer than expected road to gold.

Crosby, Staal and Iginla combined for 6 points on 3 goals and 3 assists and Nash chipped in with a late goal against Germany. The Sharks' trio of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau turned in a goal and Canada got one from its fourth line of Mike Richards, Jonathan Toews and Brenden Morrow, too.
Defensemen Shea Weber and Scott Niedermayer also found the net.

"I was never worried about finding a line," Crosby told "For us, we wanted to find ways to keep getting better and we did that. Last game we did a lot of really good things and (Tuesday) we built off of that. We all played well, and you know what, it might not be such a terrible thing that we played (Tuesday) because we want to carry that momentum into (Wednesday)."

Staal was the newest addition to Crosby's line after playing with Getzlaf and Perry in the first three games. He had three assists, chipping in on both of Iginla's goals as well as Crosby's just 1:10 into the first period.

"I thought we controlled the puck really well in their end and then when we had our breaks," Staal told "Iginla's got a great shot and he let two go. When there were plays to be made, we were making them."

Maybe it was only natural that Canada took this long to get its lines in order. As Iginla pointed out, the players only had their first practice together nine days ago and other than the Sharks' trio and the Ducks' duo of Perry and Getzlaf, there wasn't much chemistry coming into the tournament.
"Every game and every practice together is big," Iginla said. "This game, we had to win it, but at the same time it's more time together. You don't want to call it practice, but definitely it was good for us to have another day together, another game together."

Babcock tried several different combinations with Crosby in the first three games, including Patrice Bergeron and Nash, Iginla and Nash, Nash and Toews and, against Team USA, Mike Richards and Nash.

Nothing seemed to click until he put Staal there.

Staal used his big body to get in on the forecheck and create plays. He made sweet passes to Iginla on his second goal and Crosby for his in the third period. Iginla went to the net and Crosby chipped in on the cycle and forecheck.

"I thought Sid was jumping and I thought that line was really good," Babcock said. "Staal was real effective. I thought that group was real focused and played real well the whole game."

Babcock particularly liked the fact that he was able to keep their minutes down considering Canada plays Russia in less than 24 hours.

According to the scoresheet, Crosby led the line with 14:43 of ice time. Staal was at 14:16 and Iginla brought up the rear with 13:06. All three guys are used to playing well over 20 minutes a night in the NHL.

"We were able to keep their minutes down because we got the lead, which was real important," Babcock said. "We got the fifth one right away in the third and now you weren't in the grinder for 60 minutes. The game was easier."

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