May 6, 2012
New mates for RNH at worlds
By TERRY JONES, QMI AGENCY
HELSINKI, FINLAND - It looked like wholesale line changes coming off Canada’s 5-4 overtime loss to the United States.
But it wasn’t a throw-everybody-in-the-Mixmaster-after-a-loss like it looked.
“It was about changing up one line and that was Hoppy’s line,” said coach Brent Sutter.
“It was about getting a little more size on the line for Hoppy,” he said of his former Red Deer Rebel star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, better known as The Nuge these days with the Edmonton Oilers.
Sutter’s decision to split up Edmonton’s Calder and Lady Byng nominated linemates RNH and Jordan Eberle for Monday’s game against France had a trickle-through the lineup effect.
Nugent-Hopkins found himself partnered with Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn while Eberle skated with John Tavares and Jeff Skinner.
“Last year Eberle, Tavares and Skinner played together at the world championships and were a pretty good line,” said Sutter. “Hoppy just needed more size and experience on his wings.
“He’s a young guy playing in the tournament for the first time and that part has shown.
“When you get here and get on this big ice surface, it’s a pretty big adjustment. He has to be ready to dig into it and he knows it. It’s expected that he’d have some growing pains. He’ll get there. He’s a very intelligent and very good hockey player. He just has to keep playing and keep adjusting.
“This is a great experience for him and it’s going to make him a better player.”
Nugent-Hopkins said it’s going to be different not having Eberle on his right wing after the success they had together this season.
“We’re both pretty confident playing with each other.
“No matter who you have on your line, it’s going to be a good player. And it’s a good experience to be playing with different guys. I hope it works out.”
Eberle said he felt the line was starting to jell a bit.
“Our third period was pretty good. But there’s so much skill it doesn’t matter. When you play for Team Canada it doesn’t really matter who you play with”
Sutter, with back-to-back tough teams to face on consecutive days in Slovakia and the USA wanted to keep pairings such as Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane and Edmonton’s Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins together to start the tournament. But now there’s a little wiggle room to try some options.
“That’s the way it goes,” said Getzlaf who stayed with Perry and was joined by Kane after the team left the cave-like practice rink located an elevator ride under the Hartwall Arena ice surface.
“Kane adds a little speed to our line,” said the new Captain Canada.
Getzlaf said Sutter’s post-game quote that he felt like the two Ducks “hit the wall” and “showed a little rust” in the loss to the USA was fair comment.
“It wasn’t a great game for us,” said the last player to join the team due to family commitments back home.
It wasn’t a great game for Canada in a lot of areas, said Sutter.
“It’s the early going in the round-robin but our defence wasn’t very good.”
He said there wasn’t much in the practice involving France which was scoring a 6-3 win over Kazakhstan immediately overhead at the time.
“We’re not worried about who we’re playing, we’re worried about ourselves.”