2010 draft picks Hall and Fowler skipping World Junior Championships camps

While there’s generally a dearth of hockey news in the summer, one bit of actual playing news is that many of the World Junior Championship teams are holding their evaluation camps this week. Team USA opened their camp today in Lake Placid, New York but notably absent are two players who recently signed professional deals. Defensemen Cam Fowler (who Thumbnail image for hallol.jpg

While no reason was given as to why they’re not there, one could assume rather easily that their new clubs likely didn’t want them risking injury there when they’ll have NHL training camp coming up in September. After checking out the roster of players the United States has at evaluation camp for the next week, it might be daring homerism to say that perhaps Fowler and Leddy may not be missed terribly as the United States’ depth on defense is rather nice.

Team Canada is dealing with a similar problem of their own as 2010 #1 draft pick Taylor Hall is not attending Canada’s evaluation camp. For Canada, this poses more of a dilemma.

The decision means the former Windsor Spitfires star winger won’t be eligible for the world championships, since Hockey Canada insists players must take part in the camp if they are to make the team.

“Ideally we would have liked him to come to the summer camp to keep that option open, based on our policy. But his preparation for the upcoming season is focused on the NHL,” said Brad Pascall, Hockey Canada senior director of national men’s teams.

Focusing one’s efforts on the pros is never a bad thing and it’s not as if Canada is hurting for talent. And besides, Tyler Seguin will still be there. Given that both the United States and Canada are essentially super powers in the World Junior Championships, losing a player here or there isn’t a backbreaking situation. When/If these teams do go head to head in Buffalo at the tournament, however, these differences could be crucial.

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    Gibson (lower-body injury) will play again this regular season, says Carlyle

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    The Anaheim Ducks have been without goalie John Gibson for almost two full weeks because of injury, but head coach Randy Carlyle provided reason for optimism on Thursday.

    Per reports, Gibson took part in practice and Carlyle has said that his No. 1 netminder will play again during the regular season. Anaheim has nine games remaining on its schedule.

    That’s good news for Anaheim heading into the post-season.

    While Gibson has been out, Jonathan Bernier has stepped beyond his back-up role and provided solid goaltending for the Ducks during the stretch drive — which should also be a bonus for this club with the playoffs quickly approaching.

    Bernier has wins in six of his last seven starts. In nine games this month, he has only twice allowed three goals or more.

    The Ducks have fought their way back into contention for the Pacific Division with a recent surge that has coincided with San Jose’s current skid — only four wins in their last 10 games and four straight losses.

    Related: Career back on track, Bernier hopes he can re-sign in Anaheim

    Report: IIHF needs NHL’s Olympic decision by end of April

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    The Winter Olympics are less than a year away and time is ticking on the NHL to make a decision — one way or another.

    From TSN.ca:

    International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

    NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

    For those hoping NHL players will compete in South Korea next year, the situation right now appears bleak, given the recent comments of commissioner Gary Bettman, who told Reuters that “…people should assume we are not going.”

    Bettman has also argued the compressed schedule that accompanies the league’s participation in the Olympics is bad for the NHL.

    Read more: Fehr: Players won’t negotiate with NHL over Olympics

    Meanwhile, a number of players — Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Jakub Voracek and rising star Connor McDavid among them — have publicly lobbied for the opportunity to once again compete in the Olympics, adding that having the world’s best players there is a benefit to growing the game.

    (In McDavid’s case, he has never played in the Olympics, but given his stature as arguably the league’s best player right now in only his second season, he’d be a shoe-in to make Team Canada if healthy.)

    Voracek recently sounded off the matter, essentially calling the league’s position, “Absolutely ridiculous.”

    Goalie nods: Vezina candidates clash as Bobrovsky faces Holtby

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    Sergei Bobrovsky leads the NHL in GAA, at 2.04. Braden Holtby sits second, at 2.05.

    Bobrovsky leads the NHL in wins, with 39. Holtby sits second, with 37.

    Holtby leads the NHL in shutouts, with eight. Bobrovsky sits third, with six.

    Perhaps you see where this is going.

    Tonight, the two will square off in a much-anticipated game, as the Jackets travel to Washington to take on the Caps.

    “It’s a great opponent,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s going to be interesting. It’s one of the best teams in the League, so we’ll see. We’ll see who’s going to be better.”

    Holtby is the reigning Vezina winner, while Bobrovsky captured the trophy three years prior. Both have already been unofficially shortlisted for this season’s award — along with Devan Dubnyk and, perhaps, Cam Talbot — but tonight’s game is about much, much more than goaltending.

    The Caps head into the tilt two points up on Columbus for first spot in the NHL (and just one up on Pittsburgh). Columbus has made it clear it would love to capture the first Preisdents’ Trophy in franchise history, and a victory tonight would be a big step towards it. The Jackets, Penguins and Capitals all have 10 games left in their respective seasons, and Columbus will have one more shot at each this year.

    Elsewhere…

    — The Bolts begin a back-to-back set tonight, and will start Peter Budaj against the Bruins. Tuukka Rask will likely be in for the B’s, after allowing three goals on just 22 shots in a loss to Ottawa on Tuesday.

    Keith Kinkaid, who’s seen more playing time that usual down the stretch, will get another start when the Devils take on the Leafs in New Jersey. Curtis McElhinney goes for the Leafs, after Frederik Andersen beat Columbus last night.

    — It’s Matt Murray versus Mike Condon as the Penguins take on the Sens.

    Eddie Lack, who’s played very well since being verbally lambasted by head coach Bill Peters, looks to start when the ‘Canes take on the Habs in Montreal. Carey Price will be in goal for the Canadiens.

    — After Reto Berra’s first start in over a year on Tuesday, the Panthers will go back to James Reimer against Arizona. The visiting Coyotes will start Mike Smith.

    Ryan Miller goes up against his old Blues teammates as the Canucks visit St. Louis. Jake Allen, who continues to be one of the better comeback stories this season, looks for his seventh win in his last eight starts.

    Chad Johnson gives Brian Elliott a night off as Calgary takes on Nashville. Looks as though the Preds are going back to Pekka Rinne, after he earned his third straight win over the Coyotes on Monday.

    — It’s Steve Mason versus Devan Dubnyk as Philly travels to Minnesota.

    Corey Crawford will look to bounce back after allowing four goals on 10 shots (and getting hooked) against Vancouver on Tuesday. The visiting Stars look like they’ll go with Kari Lehtonen.

    — Some thought Cam Talbot, the NHL’s leader in starts, would get a rest tonight in Colorado after getting hooked against Anaheim last night. Nope. Talbot’s back in, going up against Jeremy Smith for the Avs.

    — In the late game, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck gets back in goal after Michael Hutchinson scored a rare win on Tuesday. He’ll be in against Ben Bishop, who looks to keep the Kings’ faint playoff hopes alive.

    ‘Hawks sign Kero to two-year extension

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    Chicago has re-upped with winger Tanner Kero on a two-year deal, the club announced on Thursday.

    Kero, 24, is in his second season with the ‘Hawks. He made his NHL debut in ’15-16 and has earned a more prominent role this year, scoring 12 points through 38 games.

    Undrafted out of Michigan Tech, Kero parlayed a strong senior season — which included being a Hobey Baker finalist — into a contract with the ‘Hawks. He’s spent quite a bit of time in AHL Rockford, emerging as a quality goalscorer.

    That said, Kero has developed a more well-rounded game with Chicago, and impressed head coach Joel Quenneville in the process.

    “He’s reliable in a lot of ways,” Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “He puts himself in the right spot, down low in his own end, underneath coverage, and seems to be useful in killing penalties as well. There’s more offense in his game that hopefully can come around and add to his reliability defensively.

    “We feel he’s done a good job of being a guy in the middle you can use and we like what he’s brought to our team in a position where, [earlier in] the year, I don’t know if he was forecast to be a regular like that. But he’s become more and more reliable, or used more.”

    Financial details of the new contract weren’t released. Kero is in the last of a two-year, $1.85 million deal with a $667,500 average annual cap hit.