Griffin Reinhart's world junior suspension ended Monday
Canadian defenceman to play Tuesday vs. United States
The waiting is about to end for Griffin Reinhart.
The Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman was forced to sit out Canada's opening three games at the world junior championship from a suspension incurred at last year's tournament in Ufa, Russia.
The ban ended with Canada's 5-3 victory over Slovakia on Monday in Malmo, Sweden, and he will be in the lineup Tuesday when group stage play winds up with a key match against the undefeated United States (11:30 a.m. ET).
"It's definitely weird only having one game left," said Reinhart, the older brother of Canada forward Sam Reinhart. "I've got to suck it up and watch one more and get ready for the U.S. game."
The six-foot-four, 202-pound blue-liner has a package of skill, size and experience that should be a boost for what has been a mistake-prone Canadian team thus far.
Selected by the New York Islanders with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Reinhart is among only three returning players from last year's event, along with forward Jonathan Drouin and goalie Jake Paterson.
He's a big solid defenceman. He's a smart player, moves the puck well, has a great shot.- Canadian head coach Brent Sutter on Griffin Reinhart
Coach Brent Sutter knows what the West Vancouver native can bring to the squad.
"He's a player that's going to fit into our top six," said Sutter. "He's been through it.
"He's a big solid defenceman. He's a smart player, moves the puck well, has a great shot. He's pretty good defending. Those are all things you need on your back end."
The suspension came from a high stick to American Vincent Trocheck during Canada's semifinal loss at the 2013 world juniors. He took a minor penalty on the play and Trocheck wasn't injured, but the next day the International Ice Hockey Federation slapped him with a four-game ban.
He served one game, the bronze-medal game, and had to sit out the next three official games in which he was part of a Canadian roster. That turned out to be this year's world juniors since exhibition games didn't count.
The ban still irks Reinhart, who felt the foul was accidental.
"I don't know if the IIHF knew my record or not, but I have a clean record," he said. "I'm not a dirty player at all.
"If they gave me four games for being careless with my stick and they knew it was accidental, I'd be OK with that, but they think I did it intentionally. But there's nothing I can do about that."
He does not expect the suspension to make him more cautious on the ice or affect his play at all. He has been practising with the team, got into one pre-tournament exhibition game and feels he is in shape.
But that didn't make having to watch from the grandstands any easier, especially Canada's 5-4 shootout loss to the Czech Republic on Saturday.
"The hardest part is watching your team lose," he said. "You almost feel guilty."
His return gives Canada seven defencemen, so there will be juggling for ice time.
Rolling the dice
Canada took a chance in naming Reinhart to the 22-man squad, because it left them with only six healthy bodies on the back end.
It almost fell to five when Matt Dumba came down with flu-like symptoms during Canada's tournament-opening 7-2 win over Germany, but the Minnesota Wild defenceman played through the Czech game despite a fever and a sore throat that left him barely able to talk.
Sutter stands by the risky decision.
"When you looked at the defencemen that were there, there was a reason we could be patient and wait three games for him to be back," said Sutter. "He brings those things you just don't find in every defenceman.
"His experience is something we can use in this lineup."
Reinhart will finally get to play at a world juniors with his 18-year-old brother Sam, who is a candidate to go first overall in the 2014 draft. The two have played together in minor hockey.
They will be only the third pair of brothers to play together for Canada in a world junior tournament after Randy and Mike Moller in 1982 and Freddie and Dougie Hamilton in 2012.
"It's a lot of fun, not just to play with him because every player here is at the top of their age group," said Griffin Reinhart. "I have only played exhibition games here with [Sam], but I'm looking forward to it."
They are the sons of former NHL defenceman Paul Reinhart. A third brother, Max, plays in the Calgary Flames system.
It will be the fourth time in the last six years that Canada plays the United States on Dec. 31. Canada is 3-0 in that span, with wins of 7-4 in 2009 in Ottawa, 5-4 in 2010 in Saskatoon and 3-2 in 2012 in Edmonton. In 2010, the Americans came back to beat Canada in the final.