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Practice Report

Roman Josi carrying heavy load for Team Europe

Defenseman has played more minutes than anyone during World Cup

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- For Roman Josi, the numbers are nothing new. He is used to playing the long minutes, the extra shifts, the power play, the penalty kill. Josi was eighth in the NHL last season in average time on ice at 25:29, a few ticks more than his then Nashville Predators teammate Shea Weber, who was next at 25:22.

With Nashville, Josi shared the burden. That has not been the case at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, where he's has played more minutes than any other player. That is partially because Team Europe is still playing, extending its run in the tournament beyond expectations. It's also because coach Ralph Krueger has relied on Josi more than any defenseman on his team, asking more of him than anyone else, while Team Canada's defensemen have been able to spread out the minutes.

His ice time? It was 23:07 against Team USA, 28:06 against Team Czech Republic, 25:30 against Team Canada, 29:00 against Team Sweden, and 24:52 in Game 1 of the best-of-3 final against Team Canada, a 3-1 loss Tuesday. That's an average of 26:07 per game.

Team Canada has been able to divide those minutes among Weber, Drew Doughty, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Alex Pietrangelo. Only Doughty has played 20-plus minutes in each of Team Canada's five games; his tournament high is 24:17 against Team USA in the preliminary round, and he's generally been around 22 minutes per game. 

Not that Josi minds all the ice time. It was what he expected coming into the tournament. 

Video: EUR@CAN: Josi mic'd up, peppers Price with slapshots

"I play a lot of minutes in Nashville," he said before the World Cup started. "I think as a player it's always fun to play a lot of minutes. You're never going to say no to a lot of minutes. We'll see what the coaching staff is going to do. Whatever they want me to be, how many minutes they want me to play, I'm excited for it."

So far, Josi has borne up well under the big loan of ice time.

"What Roman Josi's showing is just his overall athletic ability; it's amazing," Krueger said. "His conditioning base, his creativity, physicality that he has, like a [Nicklas] Lidstrom kind of style, defensive game that he plays."

To start the tournament, Krueger tried Josi alongside Zdeno Chara, another defenseman who knows what it's like to carry a big load on defense. But that meant Josi would have to play on his off side, and it wasn't quite optimal. The left-shot defenseman was shifted to a pairing with Dennis Seidenberg, who is comfortable on either side, and the pair blossomed. 

"He's a great player, all-around defenseman, and he's in the play every time," Weber said of Josi. "He's got the abilities, [he's] mobile enough to jump up. He can lead the rush, he can come in as the fourth guy. He's got really good offensive instincts as well. He's able to find plays or make plays happen that aren't always there."

Those offensive instincts figure to be all the more important in Game 2 against Team Canada on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports). It's a win-or-go-home game for Team Europe, which has struggled at times to find offense, relying heavily on the contributions of forward Tomas Tatar in the past two games. It has struggled on the power play, where it's 0-for-15. 

Video: EUR@NAT: Nielsen finishes off pretty passing play

Josi's 24 power-play points tied for 18th in the League last season, so it won't be just his defensive capabilities that will be required Thursday. 

"I didn't really know Roman as a player that well," said Team Canada forward John Tavares, who played with Josi with SC Bern in Switzerland during the 2012 lockout. "He really opened my eyes on his ability and the way he could skate, the way he could make plays, be up and down the ice.

"He really blew me out of the water with the way he could play the game."

Team Europe will need a big effort from Josi in order to push the series to a third and deciding game. 

"Roman has been playing obviously big minutes," Chara said. "He's obviously our No. 1 guy for the power play. He's very gifted offensively. He's a great skater and he's an unbelievable playmaker. At times when you are down a goal or two, you need guys like this on the ice to help the offense and possibly create some momentum and offensive chances. He's been playing extremely well for us."

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