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Projecting Canada's Olympic roster for Sochi after one month of NHL season

Rick Nash speaks to reporters at the Canadian national men's team orientation camp in Calgary, Alta., on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013.With the NHL season already a month old, the clock is ticking for prospective Olympians' to show they belong in Sochi.When it comes to Team Canada, injuries have affected the latest projection more than good or bad performances, most notably the concussion that has sidelined Nash for most of the season.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

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Rick Nash speaks to reporters at the Canadian national men's team orientation camp in Calgary, Alta., on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013.With the NHL season already a month old, the clock is ticking for prospective Olympians' to show they belong in Sochi.When it comes to Team Canada, injuries have affected the latest projection more than good or bad performances, most notably the concussion that has sidelined Nash for most of the season.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

With the NHL season already a month old, the clock is ticking for prospective Olympians' to show they belong in Sochi.

When it comes to Team Canada, injuries have affected the latest projection more than good or bad performances, most notably the concussion that has sidelined Rick Nash for most of the season.

The New York Rangers forward was considered one of nine locks for Canada after being such a big part of the gold-medal run in Vancouver in 2010. Coach Mike Babcock would love nothing more than to reunite Nash with Jonathan Toews, but staying off the ice for so long does not bode well.

In his place is Milan Lucic, who isn't the same player but brings some size on a team that's built mostly for speed. The Boston Bruins winger has seven goals and six assists in 14 games so far.

Jeff Carter wasn't an automatic for Team Canada after just missing out in 2010, but he had a good shot as a pure scorer, especially after a strong start. A lower-body injury suffered in late October puts the Los Angeles Kings forward's status in question.

Matt Duchene, the leading scorer for the NHL's biggest surprise story in the Colorado Avalanche, has done plenty to warrant inclusion. Don Cherry recently called him the best player in the league, ahead of Sidney Crosby, and while that may be stretch, he's a point-a-game performer.

Claude Giroux, on the other hand, is not. The Philadelphia Flyers captain who had off-season surgery to repair a torn tendon in his finger resulting from a golfing accident has no goals and seven assists.

Kevin Lowe was in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday night scouting for Team Canada, and what he saw in the final minute out of Giroux was not pretty.

With the last-place Flyers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Giroux lost a crucial defensive zone faceoff to Eric Staal, then lost track of Jordan Staal in front of the net, which allowed the Hurricanes to tie the score. Carolina won in overtime, and Giroux conceded Jordan Staal was his man.

Team Canada general manager Steve Yzerman said Giroux's decision not to attend Olympic orientation camp would not be held against Giroux. But failing to produce cannot help his cause, especially with similar players like Jordan Eberle of the Edmonton Oilers cruising along.

Few Canadian forwards are putting up as many points as Chris Kunitz, whose natural chemistry with Crosby should give him a boost. Heading into Wednesday's games, the Pittsburgh Penguins winger had eight goals and seven assists in 15 games.

Taylor Hall's case was an interesting one based on his numbers from 2013, but the Oilers left-winger faces an uphill climb once he returns from a knee injury later this month.

On defence, Dan Boyle missed more than two weeks after taking an illegal hit from Maxim Lapierre, but the veteran has since returned to the San Jose Sharks' lineup. Boyle can score and run the power play, so his stock is fine as long as he's healthy.

Once again, Cam Ward is not healthy. The Hurricanes goaltender was a dark-horse candidate for the Olympic team with the assumption of a good start, but his Oct. 24 injury that's expected to keep him out three to four weeks just about ends that possibility.

Instead, Canada's third goalie job (behind Carey Price and Roberto Luongo) is wide open. Marc-Andre Fleury of the Penguins leads all Canadian goaltenders in victories, but recent playoff performances (an .880 save percentage dating to 2010) puts him further back in the race.

Yzerman could go with Corey Crawford, considering his start for the Blackhawks and his Stanley Cup run, but the early buzz belongs to Mike Smith of the Phoenix Coyotes, who was 9-2-2 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .919 save percentage heading into Wednesday's games.

Who's in: Forward Chris Kunitz, forward Milan Lucic, forward Matt Duchene, goaltender Mike Smith.

Who's out: Forward Claude Giroux, forward Rick Nash, forward Jeff Carter, goaltender Cam Ward.

Projected lineup:

Forward

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Steven Stamkos

Logan Couture - Jonathan Toews - Corey Perry

Eric Staal - John Tavares - Matt Duchene

Milan Lucic - Patrice Bergeron - Marty St. Louis

Patrick Sharp - Ryan Getzlaf

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Defence

Duncan Keith - Shea Weber

Marc Staal - Drew Doughty

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Dan Boyle - P.K. Subban

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Goalies

Roberto Luongo - Carey Price - Mike Smith

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