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Babcock makes changes for Canada's game vs. Austria, laments difficulty

The Canadian Press

SOCHI, Russia - When Mike Babcock told Patrick Sharp he would be a healthy scratch against Austria, Team Canada's coach was glad the forward didn't seek out a rationale.

"It's good he doesn't ask me why because I've got no reason why," Babcock said.

That's the dilemma Babcock had in making a couple of roster decisions for the second game of the Olympics. He pulled Sharp and defenceman Dan Hamhuis out after they played in the opener against Norway, replacing them with Matt Duchene and P.K. Subban.

These are decisions he didn't have to make four years ago in Vancouver because that was a 23-man roster. Now there are more options with 25.

“It's way harder. It's ridiculous, actually," Babcock said. "You tell an athlete who competed hard and did things write that he's not playing. That's no fun."

It's not fun on the players who have to sit, either. But that's part of the deal at the Olympics, in the NHL and at every level of hockey.

Babcock decided to pull Sharp out because Subban was going in to play on the power play. Canada only got one of those opportunities, which limited Subban's ice time to 11:41.

"P.K. was fine," Babcock said afterward, offering nothing in the way of a vote of confidence in last year's Norris Trophy-winner.

In saying that, Babcock essentially confirmed Subban was the one who would come out of the lineup Sunday against Finland when Hamhuis returns. It's uncertain which forward will come out to get Sharp back in.

Canada's players understand the burden on their coach. Martin St. Louis, who went from injury replacement for Steven Stamkos last week to first-line right-winger alongside Sidney Crosby by the second game, knows there's going to be volatility.

"It's tough being out," he said. "You're only friend in this situation is being positive. You just get ready to earn your next opportunity and run with it. That's all you can ask of yourself."

Jamie Benn had the least amount of ice time of any Canadian player against Norway despite being arguably the best player. There's no guarantee he will be on the ice against Finland because there are no easy decisions here.

"(Babcock is) in a tough spot, everyone is working hard and pushing each other to get into the lineup," Benn said. "That's what is so great about this team, we're a competitive group but we're trying to win together and that's the biggest thing."

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