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Canada has options if Stamkos is unable to play in Sochi

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The Canadian Press
11/12/2013 4:10:01 PM
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TORONTO -- Hockey Canada's Bob Nicholson figures it's too early to worry about whether an injury clause could be used on Steven Stamkos for the Olympics.

But it's not too early for the management staff to consider potential alternatives if a broken right tibia keeps Stamkos from playing in Sochi.

"You're never replacing Steve Stamkos," said Nicholson, Hockey Canada's president and CEO. "We have a lot of great players. Steve Yzerman has a very difficult job putting this team together, but you don't replace Steve Stamkos and we'll just have to find another way to make sure the lineup's strong."

The Tampa Bay Lightning star was tied for the NHL lead in goals and assists and was considered a lock for the Canadian Olympic team. It also wasn't out of the realm of possibility that Stamkos could've been on right wing alongside Pittsburgh superstar Sidney Crosby.

After Canada struggled to score goals on the bigger, international-sized ice in Turin in 2006, pure scorers are likely to be a major priority. Through more than a month of the NHL season, no one fits that bill more than Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks and Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche.

It's possible Perry and Duchene, who each scored 11 goals through Monday's games, would ride their strong starts to spots on the team regardless of Stamkos's status, but they're certainly in better shape now.

Yzerman and coach Mike Babcock want to break up Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, so the Ducks winger could be ticketed to play with Crosby.

Marty St. Louis, who won the Art Ross Trophy last season for Yzerman's Lightning, also might get a chance with the Pittsburgh Penguins captain.

The players' stocks who could rise the most in the aftermath of the Stamkos injury are two who weren't in Calgary for Olympic orientation camp in August: Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. Giroux elected not to go while rehabbing a hand injury, while Benn was not invited.

Giroux's horrid start put him in a bad spot, but the need for a centre who can play right wing gives him a chance for redemption. He scored his first goal Saturday against the Edmonton Oilers, which could be just the spark he needs.

Benn is a centre-turned-left-winger, but the flexibility of players like Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks could help him get on the roster and let the lines shake out later.

Steven Stamkos  (Photo: The Canadian Press )

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(Photo: The Canadian Press )
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