STOCKHOLM – Canada has room for two more skaters at the IIHF World Championship, but won’t expand the team unless a forward gets injured.
Steve Yzerman intends to stay at a dozen forwards, eight defencemen and three goaltenders following Saturday’s arrival of defenceman Dan Hamhuis from Vancouver.
“At 12 and eight, we really have no plans of adding a forward,” Hockey Canada’s executive director of the national men’s team said at the Globe Arena. “If we got an injury, maybe add a forward, but we’re comfortable with the group we have.”
Players have begun flowing into the world championship in Stockholm and Helsinki as first-round playoff series conclude in the NHL. Each country can carry 22 skaters and three goaltenders in the tournament, but is allowed to dress 20 skaters and two goalies per game.
Canucks forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin and defenceman Alex Edler were expected to join Sweden on Saturday. Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec said in Montreal he’ll play for the Czech Republic, but won’t arrive in time for Sunday’s game against Canada.
Hamhuis will probably be Canada’s only late pickup. The 30-year-old from Smithers, B.C., landed too late to skate with his Canadian teammates Saturday afternoon.
Minus a 13th forward, Canadian head coach Lindy Ruff can insert the defenceman into the lineup Sunday without having to scratch another defender.
“He can be in the lineup tomorrow for sure,” Ruff said. “It just depends on how much we want to play him.”
The top four teams in each group of eight advance to quarter-finals. Canada (4-0-1) was second in the Stockholm pool with 13 points behind unbeaten Switzerland with 14 points. The Swiss booked their ticket to Thursday’s quarter-finals with a 4-1 win over Denmark.
Sweden was third with 12 points following a 2-0 win over Slovenia. The Czech Republic (2-2-1) dropped to fifth after Norway beat Belarus 3-1 on Saturday.
Finland topped the Helsinki pool with 14 points followed by the United States with 12, Russia at nine and Slovakia with seven.
Mike Smith rotates back into Canada’s net Sunday for his third start of the tournament after a win and a shootout loss. The Canadians expect to see Winnipeg Jets goalie Ondrej Pavalec in the Czech net.
Eighteen of the Canadian players have an NHL teammate on the Czech team. The world bronze medallists the last two years lost to the Swedes and the Swiss and needed a shootout to get by Denmark in the preliminary round.
“Obviously with the talent they’ve had, they’ve probably played a little bit under par,” Ruff said. “I think this is a big game for them and I think they’re going to treat it that way.”
Yzerman, who arrived in Stockholm two days ago, heads the management group that will choose Canada’s coaches and players for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The Tampa Bay Lightning general manager had the same role for the 2010 men’s team that won gold in Vancouver.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said following a meeting with the International ice Hockey Federation in Stockholm that the league is proceeding on the assumption its players will participate in a fifth Winter Games.
Yzerman is operating on that assumption as well.
“Our backup plan is we’ll come up with a backup plan if the NHL doesn’t go,” he said. “We’ve started from Day 1 with the approach it will eventually get done and the NHL players will be there.”
He drew players for Canada’s 2013 world championship lineup from non-playoff NHL teams. The lockout-shortened season ended three weeks later than usual.
Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal is Canada’s lone 2010 Olympic player in this world championship. There are legitimate 2014 candidates here, particularly at forward.
Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers, Ladd and Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche have stood out on the wide, international ice that Canada must contend with in Sochi.
“It’s an opportunity, particularly with a lot of the younger players that haven’t been in the NHL very long or haven’t been involved in the previous Olympic program, for us to really get to know them as players, where they potentially fit and are they ready for the Olympics?” Yzerman said.
“Are they ready to unseat some of the veteran guys? The more opportunity we get to watch them and spend time with them, it just helps with the evaluation process.”
Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes and Devan Dubnyk of the Oilers have both been solid in Canada’s net. A Canadian goaltender has yet to stake a claim on frontrunner for the Olympic team’s starting job.
“Is there a clear-cut No. 1 goaltender right now? No, but there’s certainly a lot of candidates for that,” Yzerman said.
“We have an interesting group of forwards, a lot of depth at forwards. As this shortened season progressed, some of the young defencemen played very well and you have to take (them) into consideration.
“Things will work their way out through the playoffs this year and the first half of next year as well. New names come into the mix a little bit two years ago you wouldn’t have really thought about.”
Yzerman’s national team group includes St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong, Detroit GM Ken Holland, Oiler president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe and Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson and vice-president of hockey operations Brad Pascall. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli is an advisor.