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World Cup

Notebook: Positives emphasized by Team North America

Matt Murray goes to dark side; coach Todd McLellan mum on No. 1 goalie

by Sean Farrell / Correspondent

MONTREAL -- Team North America coach Todd McLellan's experience with his own kids has had a beneficial impact on his ability to relate to his 23-and-younger players.

"I have a 20- and a 17-year-old and they keep me current, which is pretty good," McLellan said Tuesday at Bell Centre after Team North America's second World Cup of Hockey 2016 practice. "Like I know how important phones are, and hats, and all of those kind of things, and it's the same thing with this group. So we've got to manage them like they're younger adults and they're not 35-year-olds. So we have to meet them in the middle a little bit with that stuff."

McLellan put his talented and youthful team's international hockey experience in perspective compared to the seven other World Cup teams.

"They have a tremendous amount of experience playing with their generation," McLellan said. "The difference here is that we're going to play against other generations that are at the prime of their careers. Team Canada, Team USA, those players, they're in the wheelhouse right now.

"When you're 26, 27, and you're in the prime of your career, that's probably as good as you're going to get and you're going to try and maintain that. I think our threshold for most of our players hasn't been met yet, and that's the difference when it comes to experience."

As a result, McLellan and his staff deliberately have avoided talking about their players' lack of best-on-best elite international hockey experience, instead putting the emphasis on Team North America's positive attributes.

"We can talk and we can throw medals in and world championships at the junior age, but they're playing against their peers, they're playing in that same generation," McLellan said. "This is a little bit different. You know, we haven't used the word 'experience' much in our room. We've talked a lot about speed and tenacity, and we want to play our own game. We don't want to short sell ourselves and maybe point out deficiencies; that's not what we're about."

THE MAN IN BLACK: Johnny Cash would approve of Matt Murray's all-black Team North America goalie equipment.

"I like how it looks, for sure," Murray said. "I've seen a couple of pictures, and it looks pretty sleek and pretty intimidating."

Unlike the mostly white gear he wore with the Pittsburgh Penguins last season, Murray's new goalie pads, glove and blocker are jet black, as is the base color of his mask, which features a vivid orange paint job.

Inspired by Corey Crawford's look with the Chicago Blackhawks, Murray said the Team North America black and orange color scheme helped draw him to the dark side.

"I think the black can throw shooters off sometimes, and Crawford did it and I really liked how it looked on him," Murray said. "I think it really goes well with our jerseys too. I know our black jerseys have no white in them whatsoever, so the black looks good and, yeah, just to switch it up more than anything."

He is well aware of the debate about whether there is an advantage to wearing light or dark goalie equipment.

"With black pads, you say you see more net and your five-hole looks bigger," Murray said. "But if guys shoot five-hole, they're just going to bury it into your pads, so that's not a bad thing if your five-hole looks bigger. I know in tight on rebounds if the puck comes off black pads, guys are going to have a hard time reacting to it and so it might get lost. I've noticed that in the first couple of practices, in tight, guys are a little bit slower burying rebounds. So there are pros and cons to both. Everybody's got their opinion. I don't really think it matters."

Murray's all-black look will last only as long as Team North America's run at the World Cup. He previously ordered his Penguins goalie equipment for this season.

"My Pittsburgh set's in already and it's mostly white," Murray said. "It's just something I thought I'd try and see if I liked it. Maybe in the future."

Video: PIT@SJS, Gm6: Murray stones Nieto on the break

THE OBVIOUS CHOICE?: Murray is the favorite to be Team North America's No. 1 goalie during the World Cup. McLellan has not confirmed his goaltending decision, but Murray's successful run through the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Penguins gives him a decided leg up on John Gibson and Connor Hellebuyck.

"We've got to pick one of the three, and then see what happens," McLellan said. "I know one won the Stanley Cup, and there's no more pressure than that, playing well into June."

McLellan noted that Gibson won the Jennings Trophy with the Anaheim Ducks and pointed to the international success of Hellebuyck, who helped the United States win a bronze medal at the 2015 IIHF World Championship.

"They have their own set of experiences," McLellan said. "We'll establish a starter for [pretournament games]. That individual will play, we'll give another goaltender an opportunity, and then we'll make a decision in [the third pretournament game], and then we'll have a starter when we play in Game One, and after that we'll see what happens."

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