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Team Canada cuts won’t get dreaded wake-up call, thanks to time zone adjustments

Team Canada coach Steve Spott (OHL Images)CALGARY — It will be a kinder, gentler Team Canada this week when head coach Steve Spott and his staff make cuts for the 2013 world junior championship.

Gone are the dreaded early morning phone calls which would keep many players awake at night. Instead, Spott said he will make his final cuts on Thursday afternoon after a game against a team of Canadian university players.

In the past, Canada had made rounds of cuts, but Spott said he wants things to be different now that he's behind the bench.

"Number one, our games in Ufa (Russia) are going to be in the afternoon, so getting the players up and prepared for afternoon games without pre-game skates, that's first and foremost," said Spott, whose team will travel across 11 time zones (in stages) to reach the world junior, which begins Dec. 26. "Secondly, it's just doing things differently. I think when I got involved in the process I wanted to do things differently. I'm not a big fan of the Red-White games, but ultimately with the climate of the National Hockey League [lockout], we had no choice but to bring in extra bodies."

Spott said the reason he dislikes the traditional Red-White intersquad scrimmage is because there's a chance some of his top players could get hurt.

"Look at the past history, there's injuries," he said. "Ultimately it's tough for Canadian kids to play against Canadian kids because we're in these individual meetings [with players] cranking them up and then we're playing hard against each other. I want the kids to play hard, I want them to be competitive, but I'm not a big fan of the Red-White game."

Defenceman Ryan Murphy, who plays for Spott in the Ontario Hockey League with the Kitchener Rangers, has been cut at the past two Team Canada camps. He knows all too well what it's like to spend all night waiting for the phone to ring at 7 a.m.

"It's so difficult to get that call and to know that you're not going to be representing Canada at that tournament," said Murphy. "At the same time last year I knew I still had one more crack at the team, so it wasn't the end of the world.

"This year it's my last chance, so it's now or never for me."

The fact that the tournament will be played on the larger ice surface in Russia this year plays into Murphy's strengths as an agile, puck-carrying defenceman and someone who can quarterback Team Canada's power play.

"It will help me," said Murphy of the Olympic ice surface. "But it'll help other players, too. Them coming 100 miles an hour at you, is going to be a challenge. I'm going to have fun out on the ice and I think it's going to play into my favour."

Spott has mentioned in the past, however, that he'll also expect his top defencemen to focus more on his defensive play.

"It comes down to 1-on-1 battles," said Murphy. "I can't get beat wide, I can't get beat to the net, but the same goes for everyone. It's an unbelievable competition here and one mistake can cost you."

Murphy, who is hoping the third time is the charm for him, said he's glad the cuts are coming in the afternoon rather than the morning.

"That's a little better then," said the smooth-skating defender. "Maybe I'll be able to get some sleep."

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