Canada still paying Price

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

LEKSAND, SWEDEN -- On second thought, giving Carey Price a rest was not a good idea.

Canada coach Craig Hartsburg toyed with the idea of sitting Price this morning against Slovakia and putting Leland Irving to use.

But Irving, who has been outstanding this season with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, was on the verge of becoming the second backup goalie for Canada in two years to not get a sniff at the world junior championship.

If Price stays healthy, it's going to be next to impossible for Irving to get into the net.

Last winter in Vancouver, Devan Dubnyk watched as Justin Pogge ran the table. It was the first time since 1992, when Mike Fountain was Trevor Kidd's understudy, that the Canadian second-stringer did not play.

There was some thought Irving, the lone Calgary Flames draft choice in the tournament, might get in today because the match does not mean anything for Canada in the standings. It had first place in Group A and a bye to a semi-final on Wednesday under wraps.

"Price has been very good and we want to keep him going," Hartsburg said. "It's important a goaltender stays in there and keeps in a groove."

Irving is 19-3 with the Silvertips and has a 1.55 goals-against average. He is one of five players -- defenceman Karl Alzner and forwards Brad Marchand, Jonathan Toews and Sam Gagner are the others -- who is eligible to play in the 2008 world juniors. But just because Irving could return does not make his situation easier.

"My only goal right now is to hang that gold medal around our necks," Irving, a native of Swan Hills, Alta., said. "You hope to play every game, but it's just natural for any goalie to think that way. I was a backup when I was 16 (with Everett) and it makes this easier."

Flames GM Darryl Sutter, who arrived in town a few days ago, has no trouble with Irving's idle role.

"Leland is fortunate as an 18-year-old to be on this team," Sutter said. "It's special for a kid that age. He's here for one purpose. That is one thing we do well at this tournament, the way we prepare our kids and have them focused."

In games yesterday, Finland kept alive its hopes for top spot in Group B by blanking Switzerland 4-0 and Sweden stayed second in Group A by dumping Germany 3-1.

The U.S. hammered winless Slovakia 6-1 for its first victory in Group A. The Czech Republic beat Belarus 2-1 for its first Group B win but can still make the quarter-finals.

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CANADIAN TRAIL

- Today: Canada faces Slovakia in its final game of the round-robin.

- Time: 7 a.m. ET.

- TV: TSN

- The skinny: Canada has already clinched a berth in Wednesday's semi-finals, so this game represents nothing more than a final tuneup for the games that matter.


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