Sutter puts Team Canada through paces

Chicago Blackhawks centre Patrick Sharp, right, is hugged by teammate Patrick Kane after scoring...

Chicago Blackhawks centre Patrick Sharp, right, is hugged by teammate Patrick Kane after scoring against the Phoenix Coyotes to tie the game with 5 seconds left in the third period during Game 2 of the NHL Western Conference quarter-final in Glendale, Ariz., on April 14. (Darryl Webb, Reuters)

Terry Jones, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:32 PM ET

ZURICH - It’s not easy putting a Team Canada on ice for the first pre-tournament game en route to the world championships.

 

You have players who have been off the ice for two weeks and players who have been off the ice for two days.

And there are all sorts of interesting challenges involving travel — like here on Saturday.

Head coach Brent Sutter was putting his charges through the first full practice prior to today’s game against Switzerland in Fribourg — 130-kilometres away — when into the rink, carrying their Chicago Blackhawks equipment bags, strolled Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith.

“Two hours late for a coach Sutter practice? I’d call that a veteran move,” laughed Sharp.

The two Hawks were delayed flying out of Chicago, but they’ll suit up against the Swiss.

“They haven’t been off long; it’s probably easier for them than the guys who come from teams that missed the playoffs,” said Sutter.

Keith and Sharp took the ice together for their own private practice after the team completed their session.

“Once it took off, it was an easy flight ... and I feel good,” reported Keith. “It hasn’t affected my breathing.”

Keith said he didn’t think twice about accepting the invitation.

“I was healthy. It’s exciting to come and play for the group they’ve put together this year,” he said.

Sutter watched them for a few minutes and smiled.

“I’m really happy with our practice,” he said.

“It looks like we really have our legs under us already. There was lots of energy and lots of life,” added the coach, who had Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle on a line with Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars, and John Tavares of the N.Y. Islanders with Jeff Skinner of Carolina and Andrew Ladd of Winnipeg.

The other lines are to be determined.

Sutter said he plans to start Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk against the Swiss and go with Carolina’s Cam Ward, the Sherwood Park product, iTuesday in Kloten prior to opening the tournament against Slovakia in Helsinki on Friday.

“It’s a little bit of a shock to the body,” Ward said of facing a full barrage of shots Saturday after the team had mostly just skated at a short practice the day before.

“But it’s exciting, too,” said the goalie who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after leading Carolina to a Stanley Cup victory over Edmonton in 2006.

Dubnyk is expected to start Canada’s second game, against Team USA on Saturday.

“The game against the U.S. would be a fun game to play; I want to be ready for it,” said Dubnyk, who’s been handed the backup role after being Canada’s No. 3 goalie at this tournament the past two years.

“I certainly expect to get in a couple of games. It doesn’t feel like that long ago I was on the ice with the Oilers.”

Dubnyk, who practised in Calgary with Eberle and Flames defenceman Jay Bouwmeester before flying to Europe, has drawn Nugent-Hopkins as his room-mate.

“I’m trying to keep him in line. He’s such an animal ... and he’s talking me ears off,” he joked of the quiet Calder Trophy finalist, who just turned 19.

“I’m really excited to see him go to work on the big ice. I can only imagine what he can do with all that space to work with.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca

Twitter@sunterryjones 


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