Babcock praises Sharks Vlasic's play for Canada

Babcock praises Sharks Vlasic's play for Canada
February 17, 2014, 3:45 pm
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He used to be a thin kid, now he’s a thick man. He’s hard, he’s smart, he skates, he moves the puck and he’s safe.
Team Canada coach Mike Babcock on Marc-Edouard Vlasic

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Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s place in Team Canada’s lineup appears secure.

Head coach Mike Babcock’s club has struggled to generate much offensively, especially the forwards, but defensively it has been outstanding with just two goals allowed in three games. That includes Vlasic, who has been paired with Drew Doughty since the tournament began. Doughty is Canada’s leading scorer with five points (4g, 1a).

P.K. Subban, last season’s Norris Trophy winner, was scratched in Canada’s most recent game against Finland while seventh defenseman Dan Hamhuis played less than four minutes. According to NHL.com, Babcock said: “I'll be honest with you, Hamhuis and P.K. haven't got much of a chance. I mean the pairs are good. There hasn't been any changing of players there just because they've been real solid."

[RELATED: Pavelski enjoying linemates on Team USA]

That includes Vlasic, of course, and Babcock’s overall review of the Sharks' top defenseman was extremely flattering.  

“I just told somebody [Monday] morning that Vlasic is way better than everybody knows,” said the Red Wings’ head coach. “He’s a really, really good player; Doughty gets to do anything he wants and Vlasic is always in a great spot. He’s a good defender, he’s become harder. He used to be a thin kid, now he’s a thick man. He’s hard, he’s smart, he skates, he moves the puck and he’s safe.”

In three games, Vlasic is scoreless with a +3 rating, while averaging 15 minutes and 13 seconds per game. He’s enjoying playing with Doughty, if only for a brief stretch, according to Helene Elliott of the LA Times.

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"Two weeks from now I won’t be liking him because he’ll be playing on the Kings. Right now I’m happy he’s scoring four goals. He’s been great for us,” Vlasic said.

Canada resumes play with the quarterfinals on Wednesday against the winner of Switzerland-Latvia (9 a.m. PST, MSNBC).