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Canada Shuffles its Lines to Find More even-strength Scoring for World Junior quarter-final

MONTREAL — New year, new linemates.

After 3-1 to the United States on New Year’s Eve, Canada had a new look at practice as the team moved from Toronto to Montreal for the medal round of the world junior hockey championship.

Dylan Strome practised on a line with Tyson Jost and Blake Speers, while Nicolas Roy and Julien Gauthier gained Pierre-Luc Dubois as a linemate. The changes, said head coach, was made in hopes of creating more offence as Canada looks to a quarter-final game against the Czech Republic on Monday.

“They’re two different lines,” Ducharme said. “I think Jost and Spears bring a lot of speed, and the line with Dubois, all three are big guys and they can do damage down low for sure and bring pucks to the net. We feel it’s going to bring even more offence.”

Canada crushed the Czechs in a pair of pre-tournament games — and has a 12-1-2 record against them in the history of the world juniors — but no one is taking them lightly, especially with the tournament moving to a single-elimination format.

“You can’t take any team for granted,” said Strome, who was part of the team that lost last year’s quarter-final to Finland. “It was a 2-3 seed game last year and we’re in a 2-3 seed game this year. That game (against Finland last year) was 6-5 and you’ve got to be prepared for anything. Finland obviously had such a great team and who knows if they were expecting a 6-5 game. Nobody was, probably. It was a crazy game, back and forth. It’s quarter-finals and you’re playing for your life now, so you have to throw out all the stops.”

That’s where the new lines come in. Canada finished with the third-best record in the preliminary round, but there are many areas where it can improve. After scoring just one goal against the U.S., Canada is looking for ways to generate more offence — particularly in 5-on-5 play.

In four games, Canada has scored 21 goals, nine have come on the power play.

“I think it’s pretty obvious that we need to create more 5-on-5,” said Strome, who has scored both his goals on the power play. “Try to switch it up a bit and hopefully we can create something. I think we’ve been doing an OK job of working them down low, but we have to find ways to score goals.”

“Five-on-five goals are huge in this tournament and we don’t have enough of them in this tournament, so we have to find ways to create them.”

On defence, there were even more significant changes as Canada enters the medal round without Philippe Myers, who suffered a concussion against the U.S. and could be out for the rest of the tournament.

Kale Clague replaced Myers on the top defensive unit alongside Thomas Chabot, while Dante Fabbro and Jeremy Lauzon formed the second pairing and Jake Bean and Noah Juulsen formed the third pairing.

“It is by committee, that’s for sure,” Ducharme said of replacing the six-foot-five Myers, who has three assists. “Every player is so different. (Myers is) a right shot, big guy who skates well. He’s different. But we do it together. That’s the way we want to do things.”

mtraikos@postmedia.com

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