Canada keeping flu bug in check

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

The flu bug has infiltrated the Team Canada dressing room, compliments of a Winnipegger. Defenceman Cam Barker missed practice yesterday with what head coach Brent Sutter called "a touch of the flu."

Asked if Barker was being kept away from his teammates to prevent a spread of the illness, Sutter said the team is simply being careful.

"We're aware of it," he said. "I think it's really important. He hasn't been feeling that good for a couple of days now. It's something we've managed, no problem."

Viruses, if they spread, can take their toll on a team, and with Canada facing a stiff test in the medal around, it can ill afford to lose key players over the next few days.

Barker, 18, scored one of Canada's nine goals in a romp over Germany Tuesday, the team's first goal by a defenceman.

THEY'RE WATCHING: TSN officials were predicting a big TV audience for this year's tournament, and so far it appears they're on track.

Canada's first game, against Slovakia Christmas Day, drew 1.35 million viewers, up about 400,000 from the previous high for an opening game (Canada vs. Sweden in Halifax two years ago).

It's also more than double the average opening-game audience from the last five world juniors, even more impressive when you consider the event doesn't usually begin on Christmas.

The top-ranked event in the cable network's history was the gold-medal final from Halifax, a game between Canada and Russia which drew 3.5 million.

TSN expects to break that record this year, providing Canada makes the final.

NO WORRIES: Head coach Brent Sutter says he's not worried his team hasn't been pushed in the preliminary round, saying they won't be caught by surprise when medal-round play begins on the weekend.

"I'd be worried if we were in and out of games ... like we did in the first game against Slovakia," Sutter said. "But when you play like we have the last two games ... that's the identity we want to create. I'm not worried about that, because of our mindset as a team."

For the most part, Canada has carried its high-tempo practice habits into victories over Slovakia, Sweden and Germany.

TIME FOR FUN: Sutter called off the dogs a little for yesterday's practice, opting for loose, but intense, three-on-three sessions using one-third of the ice.

"It's fun to watch," Sutter said. "It's important for the coaching staff to manage your practices properly, and know the days when you've got to go after it, and also the days ... where we can just have a little bit of fun and the kids can relax a little bit."


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