Canada adds Coburn, Vlasic to world hockey roster
General manager Armstrong still seeking forward to replace injured Neal
It seems the number of players saying no to Canada is outnumbering the guys saying yes to flying to Switzerland for the world hockey championship.
General manager Doug Armstrong was working the phones Wednesday, trying to add a couple forwards and a defenceman from NHL teams eliminated from the playoffs to bolster Canada's lineup heading into the qualification round in Kloten, Switzerland.
As the sun set over the Alps, Armstrong announced that defencemen Braydon Coburn of the Philadelphia Flyers and Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the San Jose Sharks will join Canada in time for weekend play in the 16-team tournament.
"[Vlasic] is a good two-way player. This year he played on both ends of the power play and penalty kill for San Jose," Armstrong said. "He will solidify that group we have there."
Armstrong will continue the chase for a forward to replace James Neal, whose tournament came to an end Tuesday when he suffered a serious eye injury. The upper and lower eyelid of his left eye were sliced accidentally by Ladislav Nagy’s stick in the first period of a 7-3 Canada victory over Slovakia.
"We are finding out that a number of guys have nagging injuries," Armstrong said at a media function Wednesday night.
Armstrong appeared frustrated by coming up short on adding what he hoped would be a top forward.
This means Canada will be a work in progress with a short bench as the team goes up against the Czechs on Thursday in the first game of the qualifying round, its fourth game of the two-week competition. The Czech Republic lost 4-3 to Finland on Wednesday to finish in third place in Group B. Canada finished at the top of Group A.
Armstrong could have come to Switzerland with a full roster of players culled from teams that didn't make the NHL post-season, but chose instead to head overseas with a short bench and add bodies as teams were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Armstrong would not say who refused to join the team, but it's known that forwards Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Mike Richards of the Philadelphia Flyers and Dan Boyle of the San Joe Sharks turned him down.
Richards has said he is planning to have surgery on both shoulders.
2010 Olympics on minds of some players
The winner of the International Ice Hockey Federation's premier event gets $1 million, and Canada is looking to regain top spot in the federation's world rankings.
The idea of going for Olympic gold on home soil is the main reason that Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators says he's playing in Switzerland.
Hockey Canada will hold a training camp this summer as part of the evaluation process for the Olympic Winter Games next February in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, Nashville Predators defenceman Dan Hamhius says he'll do what he can to help the Canadian team in Switzerland.
"It is always tough joining a team late. They have been together a little while.… It will be difficult to fit in," he said. "There are a lot of adjustments you have to make and the big ice is something you are not used to.
"You are playing with different teammates, and then there is the travel and time difference. It is a lot to deal with right away but we will try to help them as best as we can."
Team captain Shane Doan was asked how difficult it would be for Coburn and Vlasic to adjust.
"Hockey Canada does a good job of keeping things simple. Everybody knows at the beginning what the expectations are and what your role is, it makes it a lot easier to handle anything like this," he said.
"It's pretty exciting when you come in the room and there's a new group of guys. You have to make sure everyone feels comfortable. In the past, I've done it, other guys have done it."
Contact lens helped Neal
A contact lens may have prevented Neal from suffering what could have been a career-ending injury.
The upper and lower eyelids on Neal's left eye were cut when the tip of Nagy's blade got under Neal's visor; when Nagy twisted the stick in an attempt to free it, he sliced the Canadian winger's eye.
Neal immediately threw his hand over his eye and blood spilled onto the ice.
Neal, who scored 24 goals for the Dallas Stars this season, was sent to hospital, where doctors conducted surgery to close the wound. He was back at the team hotel a couple of hours later. Neal will return to Canada and then head to Dallas to be checked out by the Stars' doctors.
"His eye was swelled shut but there was no damage to his eye," said captain Shane Doan. "Someone said his contact [lens] helped save his eyeball."
A Hockey Canada representative stayed at the hospital with Neal, 21, while Armstrong immediately called Neal's parents in Whitby, Ont., and kept them abreast of the developments.
Full recovery expected
"His injury is severe enough that he will not play again in the tournament," said Armstrong, who was the general manager of the Dallas Stars when he drafted Neal in the second round, 33rd overall, in the 2005 NHL draft.
"The good news is it not something that is career-threatening or career-ending. It is just a serious injury."
This season, Neal became the first Stars rookie to score 20 or more goals since the franchise moved to Dallas from Minnesota in 1993.
Dallas coach Dave Tippett is an assistant coach for the Canadian team at the world championship and he said he is optimistic Neal will make a full recovery.
"I see a bright future for him and he will be a top NHL player," said Tippett, who talked to Neal after the game.
"He was down and the fact that the tournament was just getting going, that a group of young guys was getting together and were bonding, that part is disappointing," he said. "We think he has a bright future and it is disappointing he will not have this experience and hopefully he will be ready for the fall [and the 2009-10 NHL season]."
Doan said Neal's teammates were thrilled to see him after the game.
"It is an injury that as a player is the scariest thing. Those things to the eye are always so scary," said Doan. "It is something as a player you never want to see and you could tell when he was leaving the ice he was pretty shaken up and the whole bench was."
Sweden 6, U.S. 5 (OT)
The United States blew a three-goal lead in the third period and lost 6-5 in overtime to Sweden on Wednesday.
However, a single point was enough for the Americans to win Group C and avoid facing Russia just 18 hours later in a second-round match on the same rink.
Sweden will play Russia on Thursday, while the U.S. faces France on Friday.
Finland 4, Czech Republic 3
At Zurich, Niklas Hagman of the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the winner with eight minutes remaining as Finland rallied from a 3-1 deficit.
Finland opens the second round against Slovakia on Friday, while the Czech Republic takes on Canada on Thursday.
Norway 5, Denmark 4 (OT)
At Kloten, defenceman Tommy Jakobsen scored 1:11 into overtime to lift Norway into the tournament's second round.
Norway joins Finland and the Czech Republic in advancing from Group D.
Latvia 2, Austria 0
At Bern, Martins Cipulis and Guntis Dzerins scored while Edgars Masalskis stopped 21 shots as Latvia advanced to the second round.
Bernd Bruckler made 35 saves for Austria.
With files from The Associated Press