Flyers, Avs add chemistry as Canada goes for gold at hockey worlds

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 likely starting goaltender 

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.

In the tournament opener, Flyers Radko Gudas and Jakub Voracek will play for the Czech Republic. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare plays for France, Valtteri Filppula for Finland and Ivan Provorov and Roman Lyubimov for Russia.

Other NHL players on the Czech side include goalie Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings and forwards Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins.

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.