The U.S. National Junior Team will have a familiar look to it against Canada, as head coach Phil Housley has made
no few alterations to its lineup ahead of the big match-up with rival Canada. Playing in the third game together, the U.S. will have to hope for a little more chemistry among its forward lines and see if translates to success in this important preliminary-round game.
This is not a must-win game for the U.S., but it’s fairly close. A win of any kind puts the U.S. in good position for a spot in the medal round, while a loss turns Monday’s game against Slovakia into a legitimate must-win. You can read the full USA-Canada preview here.
The big thing to keep an eye on is how Team USA uses its depth at forward today. Canada is playing short two forwards with Boone Jenner and J.C. Lipon suspended for the game. The U.S. needs to be able to keep its bench long at least to start, so all four lines will need to contribute to keep getting that ice time.Team USA is likely to utilize its “Grind Line” against Canada’s big units, trying to disrupt their play.
Coming up after the jump, Team USA’s official lineup for its big game against Canada with notes on each group.
13 Johnny Gaudreau – 10 J.T. Miller – 23 Rocco Grimaldi
This line has struggled with inconsistency, but did more to generate chances against Russia than it did against Germany. Perhaps that extra time of getting familiar with each other and building some chemistry will finally pay off in the game against Canada. This line has great speed and will need all of it against Canada. It might just be a matter of getting that first goal to open the flood gates a little to get this line buzzing more.
15 Alex Galchenyuk – 7 Sean Kuraly – 16 Riley Barber
Galchenyuk has been Team USA’s best forward and leads the squad with four points, but Kuraly and Barber struggled a bit more against Russia than it did against Germany. Getting this group back on track will be a huge key for the U.S. Galchenyuk has a lot of familiarity of Canada’s players playing in the OHL and needs to be Team USA’s best guy up front again. This trio has a great chance at being the go-to scoring line for this game with it’s mix of size and speed.
20 Blake Pietila – 18 Cole Bardreau – 21 Ryan Hartman
This line might end up being Team USA’s most important against Canada. With the immense skill the Canadians have up front, this group is likely to get a lot of assignments against Canada’s top lines. Being physical with the opposing forwards and pressuring Canada’s D on the forecheck will be big keys to this group’s success. If they can establish the physical game early and play with speed, they could be in for a good game.
26 Jim Vesey – 25 Vince Trocheck – 22 Tyler Biggs
Trocheck at times has been excellent in the offensive zone and he has enough responsibility in his own end to be effective when going up against opponents’ top lines. Biggs is going to need to do what he does best in this game, which is be physical. He also has to be smart and keep his game simple to avoid penalties and miscues. This line has been more effective when Vesey lines up on the left side. He took over for Lucia for much of the Russia game and created some chances. Vesey might make this line more dangerous in the end.
12 Mario Lucia
Lucia has lacked effectiveness in the offensive game, which is where his value lies. He’s been quiet, but as he continues to adjust to the WJC, he has the ability to breakout at any time. Expect him to get some good shifts with Trocheck and maybe spot in on other lines from time to time.
6 Mike Reilly – 3 Seth Jones
This pairing has been mostly good, but were on the ice for the disastrous breakdown that led to Russia’s eventual game-winning goal. Jones hasn’t had his best game yet and today might be the right time to find it. Reilly can take risks, but he’ll need to be a lot choosier against Canada, which can take advantage of miscues. There’s going to be a lot of pressure on this pair to do a lot in both ends, but it has to have its best defensive game of the tournament today.
14 Shayne Gostisbehere – 8 Jacob Trouba
Trouba has been Team USA’s best defenseman overall in the tournament. He also leads the U.S. with two goals. Trouba’s two-way game has been better than advertised so far. The big thing he’ll have to bring today is that nastiness he plays with. Canada will be putting the pressure on, but it is rare Trouba is out-muscled or out-hit. As long as he keeps playing as he has, he’ll do well. Gostisbehere has been a real threat offensively for the U.S. and a potential weapon on the power play with his great shot. He’s going to be under duress with Canada’s hard forecheck, so using his quickness and hockey sense to avoid the pressure while making good decisions with the puck will be the challenge.
19 Jake McCabe – 5 Connor Murphy
The closest thing to a shut-down pair the U.S. has, McCabe and Murphy have been mostly good in the tournament. McCabe has the physical edge, while Murphy plays a smart, steady game. Both have a lot of poise, which will come into play a lot in this emotional contest. They should spell Seth Jones from time to time with the tough defensive assignments on Canada’s vaunted attack.
27 Patrick Sieloff
Phil Housley may want to give Sieloff a little extra ice tonight. His sound defensive play in addition to his high-end physical game will help match-up with Canada a little better. He could see some time with his former U18 D partner in Trouba, or spell Reilly from time-to-time with Seth Jones to make a true shut-down pair for the U.S. It is highly likely USA Hockey kept Sieloff in Ufa with this game in mind.
35 John Gibson
30 Jon Gillies
Scratched: Garret Sparks
John Gibson has been the strength of the team so far through two games. He’s been as good as expected, if not better, and has given the U.S. confidence in front of him. He, along with the rest of Team USA, faces his toughest test in his international hockey career. As long as he plays his game, he should be able to have some success. He just needs some help from the guys up front to give him some scoring support.
Some quick pre-game links…
— Here is the official IIHF lineup sheet for both teams. (IIHF)
— Team USA’s official line chart. (USA Hockey)
— Team USA’s media notes (USA Hockey)
— Mike Morreale previews USA-Canada. (NHL.com)
— I joined the guys on The Pipeline Show for some thoughts on Team USA so far in the tournament and plenty of USA-Canada talk, too. You can listen to the archive… (TPS)
Come back to United States of Hockey after the game for the full recap of USA-Canada.