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Michael Petrie, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, January 04, 2007


LEKSAND, Sweden — Ten games, 25 days and 20-some hockey practices after being anointed Canada’s top line, Andrew Cogliano, Steve Downie and Brad Marchand have been disbanded.

Together since the first day of world junior selection camp in Calgary on Dec. 11, the trio was split up at Thursday morning’s practice when Jonathan Toews moved up from the second line and Cogliano assumed his place between Darren Helm and Ryan O’Marra.

"It’s a little weird, I guess,’’ said Cogliano, goal-less in Sweden. "But you have to block it out of your mind. There’s one game left and you just go out and play.’’

To understand the urgency behind these moves, simply consider the timing: One day before the gold-medal game against Russia.

"We need a little bit more from some people,’’ said Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg, not alluding to any player in particular. "We’re prepared to do whatever we have to do.

"If guys start out the game and play very well, they’ll get more ice time, obviously. We have to make sure we’re playing the guys that will help us win.’’

Heading into the tournament, Cogliano was supposed to be one of Canada’s offensive catalysts. So far, he has no goals and two assists in five games.

Naturally, some players won’t score much due to their roles within the club, but Cogliano is a point-per-game player at home and sees oodles of ice time in Sweden. Same with O’Marra, who has one point.

Bryan Little scores two points per game in the Canadian Hockey League and Marchand gets 1 1/2. Both play offensive roles here but have just one point apiece.

"The changes could be a good thing,’’ said Toews. "Lately, neither of our lines have been scoring, so hopefully we can create some offence off of that.

"Our defencemen have been doing all the scoring for us.’’

A scan through the stats suggests Canadian forwards have been offensive passengers for most of the tournament, while the men at the back end carry the workload.

Of 38 points scored (16 goals and 22 assists), defencemen have accounted for 18. Three of their top five scorers are blue-liners and their top goal-scorer — Kris Russell with four — is a defenceman.

"It tells us that our defence has been very good offensively,’’ said Hartsburg, looking at a half-full glass. "Our defence is very good at creating things from the back end, inside the blue-line.

"They have a knack of knowing when to put the puck through, when to get it on net, when to put the puck on net.’’

But imagine how good this team might be if its forwards consistently finished what the defence started. Only five forwards have scored goals for Canada, compared to nine for Sweden and eight for the United States and Russia.

Also of note at Thursday’s practice was tinkering done to the power play, where Canada is fifth in the tourney with a 21.5 (8 for 39) success rate.

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