SOCHI, Russia—Team Canada Coach Mike Babcock issued a strong and unusual directive to his players after they arrived in Sochi and held a brisk practice Monday at the Bolshoy Dome:
Don’t go to sleep.
Instead of giving in to jet lag, he told players to stay up late Monday night in hopes they’ll get on a regular sleep schedule before their opener on Thursday against Norway. That might prove challenging given players’ confusion over the time and date.
Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who was paired with San Jose’s Marc-Edouard Vlasic in practice, hesitated when asked when he had arrived, then said, “Monday.” Told that it was still Monday, he laughed. “OK, I got here today,” he said.
“We have a few days of practice and we need them because we had that long trip, and whatnot. And we need to play with these guys. I’m just looking forward to that first game. Just want to step on ice and play in front of all those fans.”
Babcock’s other defense pairs were Duncan Keith-Shea Weber; Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo; and Dan Hamhuis-P.K. Subban.
Babcock switched his lines around a bit but mainly had Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby centering for teammate Chris Kunitz and Kings right wing Jeff Carter, while Chicago’s Jonathan Toews centered for Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp and New York Rangers winger Rick Nash.
Babcock also had Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf between usual right wing Corey Perry and a host of other wingers, including John Tavares, Patrick Marleau and Matt Duchene. Babcock wouldn’t say who will start in goal on Thursday.
Those line combinations could change. “Carter shoots the puck in L.A. If he passes the puck back to Sid, he can’t play with him,” Babcock said.
Perry said he liked having Marleau on the left with him and Getzlaf.
“I think it’s going to be great. Patty has a lot of speed and you’re going to see him use that to his advantage, especially on the big ice,” he said. “Getzy and I have played together for a long time and know each other’s game and hopefully we can add Patty to that.”
Team Canada is so deep up the middle that Getzlaf, who ranked second in the NHL in scoring at the Olympics break, is merely the third-line center. He admitted to looking around at his Olympic teammates and marveling at the array of talent.
“I do that every time I come in these rooms,” he said. “Everyone asked me who I was playing with and I really don’t care. Everyone in that locker room is an elite player and it’s exciting to be part of that group.”
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