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Fight for the right

With Stamkos out, battle intensifies for wing position on Team Canada

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Team Canada's right wing was already a mess and it just got worse with the injury to its one sure bet, Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos.

Rick Nash is hurt, Claude Giroux is stumbling and Jeff Carter is banged up. Stamkos will almost certainly be unavailable to Canada, leaving more questions than answers on the right side.

Players at this summer's Team Canada orientation camp were saying this country could field two competitive entries at the Olympics, and with the injury to Stamkos, that depth is going to be tested.

 

Stamkos, who was leading the league in scoring prior to Tuesday's action, broke his leg Monday and is out indefinitely. Tampa and Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman will not only have to figure out how his Eastern Conference-leading Lightning can get by without Stamkos, but also how to fill his spot on Team Canada.

Stamkos was slated to play on the right side of Pittsburgh centre Sidney Crosby with Chris Kunitz on the left side. Team Canada's executive committee will meet this morning in Toronto to discuss the progress of players projected for the Olympic roster and the subject of how to fill the hole on the right wing will be at the top of the list.

Early projections out of Canada's summer orientation camp had Stamkos, Nash, Giroux and Carter filling spots on the right side.

Players still under consideration at that time were Corey Perry and Martin St. Louis.

Stamkos is scheduled to have surgery and is expected to be out at least three months. Olympic teams must name their rosters by Jan. 1, but hockey at the Sochi Games doesn't begin until Feb 12. Stamkos would be a long shot to play.

Hockey Canada CEO Bob Nicholson said Sunday there's an injury clause in the Olympic agreement.

"We'll see what happens in the next 48 hours and then start to discuss that," he said. "We were looking at naming the team by the first of January, but there is the injury clause and so we'll have to explore all of the those options."

Canada had an injury issue in 2010 when Ryan Getzlaf was questionable with a bum ankle. Jeff Carter was put on standby, but Getzlaf was able to go.

Nash has been on the shelf with a concussion but is expected to return to play next week. The hope is he'll be able to quickly return to form.

Giroux has just one goal and seven assists through 16 games after missing Team Canada's orientation camp this summer due to a hand injury reportedly suffered golfing.

Team Canada executives have been holding out hope Giroux can improve his play, so if the door had shut on his Olympic hopes, it's now back open.

Carter opened the season well and had five goals and four assists through 14 games before being placed on injured reserve Nov. 1 with a lower-body injury. He has yet to return although the Kings have said the injury is not serious.

Perry has been among the league's best players this season and he had chemistry with Crosby back in 2005 at the world junior tournament. Perry is a lock to be on the roster with 11 goals and 10 assists and a leading role with the Anaheim Ducks.

Chicago's Patrick Sharp is a left-winger with the Hawks but is a right-hand shot and can move over. Patrick Marleau is also back in the conversation.

The early season play of Jamie Benn and Matt Duchene also puts them on the radar. There's going to be some shuffling and perhaps some surprises. Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd is picking his game up at just the right time and if he can continue to surge may find himself in the conversation. Jets left-winger Evander Kane has just two points in his last seven games and will need to catch fire if he's going to be considered. Both Ladd and Kane play the left side.

Losing Stamkos is surely a blow and if Nash, Carter and Giroux can't rebound, Canada is going to have major issues down the right side.

The upside, however, is there are lots of players that can move over from centre or even the left side.

Looks like we're really going to find out about that great Canadian depth.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

 

IN THE LOOP

ANAHEIM DUCKS: Batman and Robin are doing it again for the Ducks as Ryan Getzlaf leads the club with 22 points and Corey Perry is right behind with 21. This duo's resurgence is top story with the Ducks and the main reason they're the NHL's best team right now.

BOSTON BRUINS: Tuuka Rask has a 1.52 goals-against average and .948 save percentage and has become Boston's best player.

BUFFALO SABRES: When Cody Hodgson is your best player there are more questions than answers. Matt Moulson has been effective since coming over in a trade for Thomas Vanek, collecting two goals and four assists in six games with Buffalo.

CALGARY FLAMES: Sean Monahan remains the story in Calgary as the 18-year-old rookie continues to play well and produce with seven goals and four assists through 17 games.

CAROLINA HURRICANES: Offence and the inability to produce remains the story in Carolina. Eric Staal leads all Canes with nine points. That's not enough.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Patrick Kane leads with 17 points while Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews both have 16. Marian Hossa has been excellent and Cory Crawford continues to play steady hockey. The Hawks have a legit chance to repeat.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: Matt Duchene has been a revelation. Fast and a finisher, he's played his way onto Canada's Olympic team.

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: One of last season's feel-good stories, they've plummeted to the bottom third of the NHL and have just six wins.

DALLAS STARS: Jamie Benn leads the Stars with 16 points. This roster should be better than its record.

DETROIT RED WINGS: Losers of three in a row, the Red Wings are struggling. Veteran Danny Cleary was a healthy scratch on Tuesday night as coach Mike Babcock looks for answers.

EDMONTON OILERS: Wins have been hard to come by and now Nail Yakupov's agent Igor Larionov is jumping up and down about his player's ice time. Good times.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: Firing coach Kevin Dineen won't fix the issues in Sunrise. This rebuild is just beginning.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Middle of the pack in the West, will GM Dean Lombardi try to give his roster a boost?

MINNESOTA WILD: Goalie Josh Harding has been one of the surprises of the season with a 1.22 GAA and a .947 save percentage.

MONTREAL CANADIENS: The Habs have been treading water, but the play of Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk has been impressive.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: The Preds, shocker alert, can't score. They can defend and despite losing goalie Pekka Rinne, have been able to stay in games. The lack of scoring, however, is beginning to drag them down.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Veteran Marty Brodeur has shutouts in back-to-back starts and all of a sudden the Devils have strung some wins together.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Thomas Vanek has three points in six games since coming over and now there's talk of Jack Capuano being in trouble.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Winners of six of seven. Alain Vigneault didn't blink during this club's early struggles and now this team is responding to his style of coaching.

OTTAWA SENATORS: Bobby Ryan has provided the Sens with some offence but the void left by Daniel Alfredsson, this organization's soul for so many years, is still unfilled.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Peter Laviolette wasn't the cause of this mess. Paul Holmgren has made a number of bad moves lately and the effect is now being felt.

PHOENIX COYOTES: Scoring by committee, attention to detail, brilliant coaching, ownership stability and solid goaltending have the Coyotes riding high.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: The Penguins are rolling along in the East but are they Cup contenders against the best of the West?

SAN JOSE SHARKS: Depth at centre -- Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture -- makes the Sharks a contender in the West.

ST. LOUIS BLUES: Alex Steen isn't the only member of the Blues getting it done. Strong goaltending and a big, mobile D go a long way to making this team one of the best.

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: How the Lightning adjust to life without Steven Stamkos will have a major impact on the standings in the East.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: A great power play and better penalty kill have kept the Leafs afloat. James Reimer has been near bulletproof in goal.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: The Canucks must hate realignment. They absolutely owned the old Northwest Division and punched a ticket to the playoffs consistently by winning that division but are now barely a playoff team in the West. Vancouver would need a wild card to qualify if the season ended today.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Same old story in Washington. They can score but they can't defend. Adam Oates will have to get more of a two-way game from his group if they expect to have any success in the playoffs.

WINNIPEG JETS: The lack of a power play is killing the Jets. They've scored 37 goals in five-on-five situations and allowed 38. Entering Tuesday's game they had scored just six goals on the power play. Yikes.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 13, 2013 C3

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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