UFA, Russia — Drama continued to dog Canada on the eve of the world junior hockey championship.
After hastily summoning Mark McNeill from home to replace an injured forward, Canada will now be without an important player for their first three games of the tournament.
The International Ice Hockey Federation handed forward Boone Jenner a three-game suspension on Monday for his late hit on a Swedish defenceman in Canada’s final exhibition game.
Jenner will miss Canada’s games against Germany on Boxing Day, Slovakia on Friday and the United States on Sunday. The Oshawa Generals forward is eligible to return for the final Pool B game before the medal round against Russia on New Year’s Eve.
“Obviously it’s really tough,” Jenner said quietly following Tuesday’s practice in Ufa. “I really want to play in this tournament and be out there with my teammates. I don’t want to be in the crowd watching.
“There’s nothing I can do now. The ruling was made and it was three games. I’m going to sit out the three games, cheer on the team and be ready for the fourth.”
So for three games, Canada is minus their top faceoff man, key penalty killer, third-line centre plus a player with previous tournament experience all in one package.
“He’s definitely a big loss for the hockey club,” Canadian head coach Steve Spott said.
Also, winger Jonathan Drouin suffered a mild charley horse in Tuesday’s practice. He was left off Canada’s roster of players submitted for the tournament, in order to keep a spot open should another replacement player be needed.
Drouin’s game fitness will be evaluated Wednesday and the Halifax Mooseheads forward can be added to the team’s list up to two hours before the game versus Germany, according to Hockey Canada.
It was also announced late Tuesday evening that Belleville Bulls goaltender Malcolm Subban will start versus the Germans.
It’s been an eventful leadup to the 2013 world junior championship for Canada.
When Charles Hudon of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens was forced off the team late last week with a back injury late, McNeill rushed to catch up with the Canadians in Finland before the team headed to Ufa.
McNeill had been released from the team at selection camp in Calgary. Now the Prince Albert Raiders forward will centre Canada’s third line in the absence of Jenner.
Swedish defenceman Jesper Pettersson suffered a broken wrist and a dislocated shoulder when Jenner checked him Saturday in a pre-tournament game in Finland.
The Swede was removed from the ice on a stretcher. Jenner was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for charging.
The International Ice Hockey Federation meted out additional discipline late Monday.
“The video material indicated that the hit was late and delivered with no intention to play the puck and with Pettersson being in a vulnerable position,” the IIHF said in a statement. “It was Jenner’s intention to deliver the forceful check in spite of having the opportunity to at least make an attempt to avoid contact on Pettersson. The hit was delivered far too late. This resulted in an injury to Sweden’s Pettersson and for this Jenner is to be held accountable.”
Spott didn’t want to dwell on the IIHF’s decision to avoid it becoming a distraction.
“It’s disappointing, but we respect and understand the IIHF’s decision saying that there was an injury on the play and we hope the Swedish player is going to be OK long-term,” he said.
It’s not the first time Jenner has run afoul of the IIHF’s disciplinary committee.
The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect was suspended for one game of the 2012 world junior championship for spearing Russian captain Evgeni Kuznetsov in the semifinal. Jenner couldn’t play in the bronze-medal game, which Canada won.
“I guess it’s a coincidence that it’s happened two year in a row,” Jenner said. “It’s not the greatest thing to happen.”
Spott says he didn’t call up another player to replace Jenner in the lineup because the suspension was limited to three games.
“We had a plan going in based on the games,” the coach explained. “We knew one, two or three… that Boone would stay and be a part of our club against the Russians.”
Spott shuffled his third and fourth lines in practice in preparation to play without Jenner. McNeill was between wingers Phillip Danault of the Victoriaville Tigres and JC Lipon of the Kamloops Blazers.
Halifax Mooseheads forwards Nathan MacKinnon, 17, centred the fourth line with wingers Ty Rattie of the Portland Winter Hawks and Anthony Camara of the Barrie Colts.
McNeill, a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, is still trying to familiarize himself with his teammates. Unlike them, he didn’t take part in the pre-competition camp in Finland to ease him through jet lag en route to Ufa.
“I’m still adjusting to the time frame and everything and long hours on the plane,” the Edmonton native said. “I’ve got a couple of good skates under me now and I’m feeling a lot better.
“The doc’s been really great telling us when to sleep and not to sleep and that’s been key. I think I’m getting a lot better and tomorrow I’ll be even better.”
Canada is heavily favoured against the Germans, who earned a promotion back to the top-tier world championship this year.
Spott, who coaches the Kitchener Rangers, will face one his Ontario Hockey League players in Canada’s opener — German defenceman and Edmonton Oilers Tobias Rieder.
“We know teams like this can be dangerous because when they play against us, we’re going to see their best,” Spott said. “We know they’re going to be motivated. It’s up to us to find that level of motivation ourselves.”