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Duchene may be scratched for Canada: Did recent slump cost him spot in lineup?

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According to an NHL report on Tuesday, Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene may begin the Olympics as a healthy scratch for Team Canada.

Duchene, who is the youngest player for Canada at 23, was not amongst the team’s top four lines during practice. He and Martin St. Louis (the other forward not included in the line combos) did however, see some time on the second powerplay unit.

Unlike the NHL (which only allows 20), the Olympics allow 23 players to suit up for each game; meaning that either Duchene or St. Louis may play spot duty as an extra forward/powerplay specialist.

"Hopefully I get to play, I get in the lineup, even if it's the 13th [forward] spot," said Duchene. "I just look at past guys that have been in that position. I think Jonathan Toews started as [the 13th forward] last Olympics and ended up being maybe the best forward on the team by the end."

Both Toews and Mike Richards did indeed start the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 as spare parts; but both ended up playing integral roles on Canada’s way to the gold medal. Duchene does however, have other factors working against him.

While he has seen some action on the wing both overseas and for the Avalanche; Duchene’s natural position is center. Canada is loaded with men in the middle, and Duchene struggles at times with faceoffs. So if Duchene does play, in all likelihood it will be on the wing. St. Louis is a natural winger. Duchene also is not a regular killing penatlies.

Last month, it seemed like Duchene may get on Canada’s top line with Sidney Crosby as his center. One can’t help but wonder, if Duchene’s recent slump knocked him further down the Canadian depth chart.

Since being named to team Canada on Jan. 7 (a 16-game span), Duchene has scored only three goals. He is also a minus-six over that period of time.

Duchene does have some things working in his favor however; as he may be the best skater on the team. On the larger international ice surface, speed kills and Duchene has plenty of it.

He also has some experience playing on big ice, including finishing second on the Canadian team in goals during the latest World Championships. He also played for two teams in Europe (as well as on the Canadian entry for the Spengler Cup) during the lockout, playing both on the wing and on international ice.

Should there be an injury, or if Canada has trouble keeping up with the other counties; Duchene could play an integral part for Team Canada. Either way, Duchene seems to be keeping a good attitude.

“I'm going to do whatever I can to help the team,” he said. “Whether it's on the ice or in the stands."

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