Fly­ers, Avs team up for Canada

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - BILL BEA­CON

The Philadelphia Fly­ers and Colorado Avalanche didn’t make the NHL play­offs. In­stead, they’ve set up shop on Team Canada.

Five Fly­ers and four Avalanche are on coach Jon Cooper’s squad for the IIHF world cham­pi­onship that opens Fri­day in Paris and Cologne, Ger­many.

“On the two power-play units es­pe­cially, there’s one with nearly all Philadelphia play­ers and the other with nearly all Colorado play­ers,” de­fence­man Mike Mathe­son of the Florida Pan­thers said this week. “I think the coaches and man­age­ment have done a good job of find­ing a group of guys who al­ready have chemistry.

“That makes a dif­fer­ence in a short tour­na­ment.”

The Fly­ers are all for­wards — Claude Giroux, Wayne Sim­monds, Travis Konecny, Sean Cou­turier and Bray­den Schenn. The Avalanche con­tin­gent in­cludes goalie Calvin Pickard, de­fence­man Tyson Barrie and for­wards Matt Duch­ene and Nathan MacKin­non.

There are also three Win­nipeg Jets in goalie Eric Com­rie, de­fence­man Josh Mor­ris­sey and cen­tre Mark Scheifele.

It may have helped that Canada’s gen­eral man­ager, Ron Hex­tall, is also GM in Philadelphia.

Canada will be gun­ning for a third straight world cham­pi­onship gold medal at the 16-team tour­na­ment, af­ter top­ping Fin­land 2-0 in last year’s fi­nal and go­ing un­de­feated in 2015.

They look to have drawn the weaker of the two eight-team pre­lim­i­nary round groups.

They open Fri­day in Paris against the Czech Repub­lic, fol­lowed by clashes with Slove­nia, Be­larus, France, Switzer­land, Nor­way and Fin­land.

The United States, Swe­den and Rus­sia are in the Cologne-based group along with Ger­many, Latvia, Den­mark, Slo­vakia and Italy.

The top four from each group ad­vance to the quar­ter-fi­nals on May 18. The semi­fi­nals are on May 20 in Cologne with the fi­nal a day later, also in the Ger­man city.

Canada dom­i­nated the Swiss 4-1 in their lone pre-tour­na­ment game on Tues­day in Geneva, out­shoot­ing them 41-17. Giroux and Sim­monds each picked up a goal and an as­sist.

“It gives us a lot of con­fi­dence go­ing into the tour­na­ment with the abil­ity we have,” Mathe­son said af­ter the game. “Switzer­land has a very good team and they’ve had a long train­ing camp to get ready.”

Chad John­son of the Cal­gary Flames will likely be the start­ing goal­tender, backed up by Pickard and Com­rie, who spent most of the sea­son with the AHL’s Man­i­toba Moose.

The de­fence so far has Barrie, Mor­ris­sey, Mathe­son and his Pan­thers team­mate Jason De­mers, Calvin de Haan of the New York Is­landers and Marc-Edouard Vla­sic of the San Jose Sharks.

Be­sides the Philadelphia and Colorado play­ers, a strong group of for­wards in­cludes Scheifele, Bray­den Point and Alex Kil­lorn of Cooper’s Tampa Bay Light­ning, Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jeff Skin­ner of the Carolina Hur­ri­canes and Ryan O’Reilly of the Buf­falo Sabres.

Four play­ers have al­ready won a gold medal for Canada this sea­son as Vla­sic, Giroux, Duch­ene and O’Reilly played in the World Cup of Hockey in Septem­ber. Cou­turier, MacKin­non and Scheifele played for Team North Amer­ica in the World Cup. Vla­sic and Duch­ene were also on Canada’s 2014 Olympic gold medal squad. There are five play­ers back from last year’s world cham­pi­onship gold medal team — Pickard, Mathe­son, Duch­ene, O’Reilly and Scheifele.

Cop­per’s as­sis­tants are Ger­ard Gal­lant, international hockey vet­eran Dave King and Dave Hak­stol of the Fly­ers, who will get a look at half of his NHL squad at the world cham­pi­onship.

Rus­sia’s team is drawn mostly from the KHL, but has three Light­ning play­ers in goalie An­drei Vasilevskiy and for­wards Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namest­nikov to go with Artemi Pa­narin of the Chicago Black­hawks.

The Amer­i­cans have 19 NHLers on coach Jeff Blashill’s 23-man ros­ter in­clud­ing Jack Eichel of Buf­falo, Dy­lan Larkin Detroit, Johnny Gau­dreau of the Cal­gary Flames and three Jets — Con­nor Helle­buyck, Ja­cob Trouba and An­drew Copp.

SALVATORRE DI NOLFI, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Jon Cooper, head coach of Canada’s IIHF hockey team, watches the play dur­ing a friendly be­tween Switzer­land and Canada in Geneva.

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