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World Juniors: Team USA Switches Up Line Combos Again

Miaimi's Anthony Louis may have moved onto the bubble for making Team USA
Miaimi's Anthony Louis may have moved onto the bubble for making Team USA
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The biggest news this morning was that Team USA has cut Michael Downing. That leaves the US with one more defenseman and two more forwards left to cut.

On defense, things have gone pretty much as expected. It's up for debate whether Downing was one of the seven best defensemen at camp, but he was clearly the fifth-best left-handed defenseman in camp on a team that was only going to keep four left-handed defensemen.

That leaves the last cut before the US is down to the seven players they'll play with against in the tournament. The final decision likely comes down to one of either Brandon Carlo or Ryan Collins or an injured Steve Santini. Santini is expected to be cleared to play later today, so his recovery remains on schedule, and it looks likely that he'll play. That means one of either Carlo or Collins will be the one to go home.

Forward is a little less clear and last night's exhibition only muddied the waters. Here the line combinations for today's practice:

Bracco-Eichel-Tuch

Milano-Matthews-Schmaltz

Motte-Larkin-Fasching

Wood-Compher-Hayden

De Leo-Cassels-Louis

These are interesting because the US has really loaded all their scoring forwards on the top two lines, and their grinding, energy guys on the lower lines. I'm not sure how I feel about that. The first thing that sticks out is that you're probably not getting the most out of your talent if JT Compher is relegated to the fourth line.

Jeremy Bracco was thought to be a bubble guy, but there he is on the top line with Jack Eichel and Alex Tuch. Bracco has done what he's needed to do, which is put up points. He has a nice assist in both exhibition games.

Miles Wood had another strong game last night, and appears to be making a very strong case for making the final roster.

That fifth line looks to be the new guys on the bubble. Conventional wisdom was that one of De Leo or Cassels was likely to stay because they can play up the middle. De Leo looked pretty safe after a big performance against BU, but reportedly wasn't as strong last night. Moving Larkin over to center gives the US the option of releasing both Cassels and De Leo. Anthony Louis, meanwhile, has played well enough, but that may be a case where Wood is just making a compelling argument for his spot.