Team Canada flexing its muscle
SOCHI, Russia -- Team Canada is breaking out the big-boy line Wednesday in its quarterfinal clash against Latvia.
At practice Tuesday, Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn was placed on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, an absolute beast of a unit that has the potential to wreak havoc in the offensive zone.
There's some serious beef and talent in this trio:
• Perry, 6-foot-3, 212 pounds
• Getzlaf, 6-foot-4, 221 pounds
• Benn, 6-foot-2, 210 pounds
"I had a chance to play with them a couple of years ago at the world championships," Benn said Tuesday after practice. "They're obviously skilled players, big guys who like to control the puck, control the play and use their big bodies down low. Hopefully we can find some chemistry."Given the coaching staff's desire to see more time spent in the blue paint, you can figure out the wisdom in putting these three big dudes on the same unit.
"I think so," agreed Benn. "We can use our size and strength to our advantage out there. We have to find a way to get to the dirty areas. And find a way to get some greasy goals."
One thing's for sure: After playing versus Getzlaf and Perry in those Western Conference clashes the past few years, Benn sure likes being on the same side, even if it's just for two weeks.
"Definitely," Benn said, chuckling. "They're such talented players; they're tough to play against and it's going to be fun to join forces and see what we can do."
Benn was seen conferring with his new linemates between drills at practice Tuesday on a few occasions. It's all about trying to know where he fits in.
"Just about where to be on the ice," Benn said. "They control the play really well and they control the puck quite a lot on their shifts. I was trying to get some hints on where I should be and know what kind of plays they like to use."
For Benn, it's a third different center in four games, having played the first two games with John Tavares, then getting the promotion to Sidney Crosby's line for the Finland game. After being perhaps Canada's most impactful forward in the first two games, Benn wasn't as good versus Finland, which he acknowledged.
"I think I skated a lot better in the first two games," Benn said. "That's a big part of the game over here is that you have to skate each and every shift. I think I got to get back to that."
He was asked Tuesday if he was nervous playing with Crosby.
"No, I don't think so," Benn said. "I thought there were chances to make plays out there, and I didn't make them."
Regardless, I think this new line is a better fit for Benn, who can play in straight lines and mash it up with Getzlaf and Perry.
"To get shots to the net, to get second opportunities, that's what the three of us are going to do," Perry said during Team Canada's media conference on Tuesday. "We're three big men and we can get to the middle of the ice. That's what Babs, Coach Babcock, was addressing to us today -- getting to the middle of the ice, getting those second opportunities and shoot the puck."
I think head coach Mike Babcock has found something here with this combination.
The other lines at practice Tuesday:
So it appears either Duchene or St. Louis will be the odd man out, although Babcock said he would reveal his scratches Wednesday at the pregame skate.
"We're going to need a four-line hockey team that are all playing at an elite level," Getzlaf said during the media conference. "We had a little conversation today, I talked to [coach] Mike [Babcock] a little bit this morning about what he needs from me and what we need going forward, and I think him putting Benn there sends that message.
"Benn, he's been playing great. He's skating well and he holds the puck, so that should benefit our line; that's what we like to do."
Babcock did announce Tuesday that Carey Price would once again start in goal, and at this point, there's no reason to think it isn't his job for the rest of the tourney.
It's also noteworthy that Chris Kunitz was back with Crosby after playing on the fourth line versus Finland.
"We thought we had a real good game out of Benn and Bergeron and Crosby last game," Babcock said. "We just feel we need Getzy's line to be good as well. So we're just trying to get everything going as best we can."