Canadian fans have been scribbling Olympic line combinations for this year's team on blogs and beer napkins almost since the end of the 2010 Games. Today, we finally got our first idea of how coach Mike Babcock envisions Team Canada taking shape when it debuts on Thursday against Norway.
The team's first practice in Sochi saw Jeff Carter in the coveted right wing spot on Canada's top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. It had been speculated for a couple of weeks that the Kings' sniper would get the first look if Steven Stamkos couldn't go, so this isn't a big surprise. Carter is a right-handed shot and one of the game's best scorers, so he has the tools to fill the role. How long he stays there, though, depends on whether he can develop some kind of chemistry with Crosby.
Tavares makes a lot of sense in that spot. None of the three are blazing fast, and all can play a gritty game, so there's a feeling that they'll blend well. Then again, any time you put two of the league's top-three scorers on a line, chances are that good things are bound to happen.
The defensive pairs in today's skate were Duncan Keith with Shea Weber, Marc-Edouard Vlasic with Drew Doughty and Jay Bouwmeester with Alex Pietrangelo. That leaves P.K. Subban to skate with Dan Hamhuis. It seems likely that the Canucks' defenseman will start the tournament in the press box, with Subban dressing for spot duty on the power play and the odd even-strength shift, likely with Bouwmeester.