Ahead of their first game of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, Canada’s head coach Mike Babcock revealed a few of his key lineup decisions for Saturday night’s contest against the Czech Republic.
As most expected, Carey Price was named the opening-night starter for Team Canada. The Montreal Canadiens netminder saw action in two exhibition games during the pre-tournament camp to help prepare him for live action after a 10-month layoff due to injury. The veteran netminder allowed three goals on 24 shots in a loss to Team USA, before looking much sharper with 24 saves on 26 shots in a win over Russia to close out pre-tournament play.
As Babcock’s starter for the 2014 Olympic team and the fact that he was the NHL’s MVP in his last healthy season, he would have had to have looked particularly awful to lose the No. 1 job. With two games to get up to speed, it looks like he’s ready to go.
Babcock also revealed that it will be Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford and not reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby serving as Price’s backup Saturday. Both Crawford and Holtby only saw half a game of pre-tournament action as Canada was trying to get Price ready. Crawford was solid in limited action, stopping all 10 shots he saw in the 5-2 win over the U.S.
One of the more surprising notes from Babcock on Friday was that Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux will be sitting out the first game as a healthy scratch. Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly, who was just added to the team three days ago to replace the injured Tyler Seguin, will fill Giroux’s spot on Canada’s fourth line alongside Joe Thornton and Matt Duchene.
The other healthy scratch will be Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin. There was initially some concern after Shea Weber left Canada’s practice early Friday, but Babcock told the assembled media that the new Habs blueliner will be in the lineup. That left Muzzin as the odd man out.
Canada takes on the Czech Republic at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / World Cup: Carey Price to start opener for Canada; Claude Giroux to be scratched