Mon Dec 26 11:40am EST
Team Canada coach Don Hay is not afraid to tinker. The nation's bench boss for the next 11 days, as per TSN's Bob McKenzie, changed his forward lines in advance of today's tournament opener vs. Finland (3:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. MT, TSN/RDS, Sportsnet radio, Yahoo! livechat).
Mark Visentin remains the starting goalie (as per Farhan Lalji), meantime. Please excuse the armchair coaching — in full disclosure, this is coming from someone who's not even upright yet — but here's some guesses at what's behind the changes.
Getting Ryan Strome going — The Niagara IceDogs centre will get the often dynamic, at least when healthy, Jonathan Huberdeau, on his left side with the most productive forward, Mark Stone (three goals in pre-competition) on his right side. The 18-year-old Strome is a big-time playmaker, but has not shown a great spark so far with Team Canada. It seems that centre is the position affected most by the stream of 18- and 19-year-olds graduating early to the NHL, so it's practically Strome or bust when it comes to a No. 2 centre.
The Mark Scheifele-Jaden Schwartz-Brendan Gallagher combination seems like the go-to line (note to readers: linemates are listed centre-left-right). Scheifele's vision with Schwartz and Gallagher's quickness and finish could be very potent.
The NHLers drop down, perhaps for the greater good — It's not a demotion, per se. Putting the Anaheim Ducks' Devante Smith-Pelly on a trio with centre Freddie Hamilton and returning left wing Quinton Howden does read like a genuine attempt to spread out the scoring punch. Howden's quick feet and Smith-Pelly's jam might lead to some scoring chances for Hamilton, whose best virtue is being able to finish within an eight- to 10-foot radius of the goal.
Tampa Bay Lightning loaner Brett Connolly, who seems cast as the enigma of the team, is skating on the de facto fourth line with centre Michaël Bournival and left wing Boone Jenner. There could be a not-so-subtle message to Connolly there, but pairing him with two players who typically improve their linemates' lot could help him get untracked.
Canada's defence pairings will be Brandon Gormley-Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington-Ryan Murray and Jamie Oleksiak-Mark Pysyk. Montreal Canadiens first-rounder Nathan Beaulieu is the seventh defenceman.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet (photo: The Canadian Press).