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St. Louis makes it work anywhere in Canada lineup

by Arpon Basu

SOCHI -- Martin St. Louis thought he would be vacationing with his family. Instead he's playing for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

When St. Louis was named by Hockey Canada as an injury replacement for Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos on Feb. 6, no one knew how much coach Mike Babcock would play him, or even if he would play him.

But in Canada's 3-1 tournament-opening win against Norway in Group B preliminary-round play Thursday, St. Louis not only played, he played a lot. And he played with just about everyone.

He didn't get any points, but St. Louis was a key member of what Babcock called his best line in a rotation with Jamie Benn alongside John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron.

"I played more than I thought I would, and you just try to do the best you can with the ice time you get," St. Louis said. "It's a very fast game so it takes depth. And we have it."

St. Louis played 10:47, a bit more than Benn's 8:52 and a bit less than Bergeron's 10:59. St. Louis had a shift on a line with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, and some time on the Jonathan Toews line taking the spot of Rick Nash and Patrick Sharp.

In all three cases, St. Louis was replacing a player who had just played special teams, but Babcock said the coaching staff was curious to see how he fit in.

"We planned it that way so we could see different people with other people, with pairs," Babcock said. "We're a work in progress. We don't know what our lines are going to be."

As for St. Louis, he said he did not know what the intentions were of the coaching staff in having him bounce around, but he wasn't particularly concerned about it.

"I have no idea," he said. "I try to work hard when I'm on the ice."

The 3-1 score against a weaker team like Norway may lead some to believe Canada was disappointed with its performance, but St. Louis was not.

He credited the Norwegians for the way they closed on the puck aggressively and gave the Canadians little space to make plays, and said his team executed properly.

"I thought [Thursday] we played the right way and that's the way you've got to approach each game," St. Louis said. "You can't turn it on in the quarters, semis or final. I thought [Thursday], the way we won the game, we played the way we want to play.

"A win is a win and I'm glad the way we did it."

St. Louis also surely was just as glad to be a part of it, and a significant one at that.

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