Eve Muirhead will begin her quest for Winter Olympic qualification with a new-look rink in Canada this week.
Team Muirhead will take part in the HDF Insurance Shoot-Out in Edmonton, which gets under way tomorrow, hoping to start picking up the qualification points that will see them represent Great Britain in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018.
For the first part of the season, Muirhead will be joined by Kelly Schafer – the temporary substitute for long-time third Anna Sloan, who is continuing her rehab from an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
Vicki Adams, who won Olympic bronze with Muirhead in 2014, is second, while Lauren Gray, who was reserve in Sochi, is the team’s new lead.
Muirhead said: “We are in the best shape we can be going into our first event.
“We have trained really hard during the summer and have had a good month on-ice training as well.
“There have been some big changes obviously but Lauren has fitted in great as well as Kelly. I have played with Kelly in the past and we knew she was the best and right option for us until Anna is able to join us.
“Kelly has been there and done it, she is an incredibly hard worker who is prepared to make the sacrifice to join us for the start of our season and we are very glad that she is doing that.”
Muirhead may be aiming for her third Winter Olympics but it is still one of the youngest rinks on the tour and the Perthshire 26-year-old is looking forward to the challenge of playing in the intense environment of the top curling nation.
“Canada is where we thrive and get better,” said the skip. “For a season opener it is always interesting to see if any new aspects of the game might appear so there may be some unknowns.
“Every game in Canada is valuable experience, however we don’t fear any teams out there and those teams will be watching us as well.”
Scotland is also represented by Team Aitken, making their debut at the same event and they have been drawn in the same pool as Team Muirhead. Skip Gina Aitken, from East Lothian, leads a rink which also contains Rowena Kerr, Rachael Halliday and Rachel Hannen, and said: “We are feeling happy and ready to play in our first competition as a new team this season.
“Canadian competitions are always good. We’re looking forward to challenging games, including our game against Team Muirhead.”