It’s the game that will be the one everyone will remember from this year’s World Junior Championships. That’s not just North American bias here, it’s the truth. Team USA and Team Canada will clash for the first and only time at this year’s tournament tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. after Team Canada downed Team Switzerland 4-1 in the quarterfinals. The winner of the game goes on to play for the gold medal.
It’s an odd juxtaposition for these two teams as they’ve virtually swapped roles from last year’s tournament. This year, Canada had to deal with a loss to Sweden in the preliminary round that forced them into the quarterfinals rather than getting a bye into the semifinals the way the United States did.
Canada failing to get the bye ensured that the only way the USA and Canada would face each other would be before the medal round of the tournament and sure enough, that’s where we’re at now. While the two teams have equal amounts of talent at forward and defense, the difference between their goaltending is stark and very much in favor of the United States.
The Americans will run with Dallas’ 2010 first round pick Jack Campbell. Campbell was the goalie for last year’s gold medal winning team and he’s looked much stronger this year. Being another year older and a bit more savvy in goal has turned him into a stud in this tournament. In four games, Campbell has won all four games and has put up stunning numbers with a 1.03 goals against average and a .957 save percentage.
Canada’s tandem of Coyotes prospect Mark Visentin and Oilers prospect Olivier Roy have had their problems but Visentin has, so far, proven himself to be the better of the two but not in a way that has given Canadian fans a lot of confidence. Visentin will get the start against the United States tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. The game might not be head-to-head for the gold medal, but this game features the tournament’s two best teams and with the crowds being decidedly more pro-Canada the audience dynamic should be fascinating.
Overall this season the New York Islanders have really struggled away from the Barclays Center, a point of concern when you consider how many road games they have down the stretch as they try to overcome their miserable start to climb back into the playoffs.
Their current nine-game road trip is off to a promising start with wins in the first two games, including a 3-0 shutout win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night to improve their record to 12-4-2 under new coach Doug Weight.
The Islanders received goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee and John Tavares in the win, while Thomas Greiss stopped all 24 shots he faced to record his third shutout of the season.
With the win the Islanders hold sole possession of the second wild card spot in the East for the time being, two points ahead of Florida and Boston (the Bruins are in action right now) and continue their stunning second half turnaround.
But while things are going great for the Islanders right now, the struggles in Montreal continue.
With their loss on Thursday they failed to put any extra distance between themselves and the rest of the Atlantic Division that has suddenly closed the gap on them. They remain just two points up on Ottawa and only four points ahead of Toronto. The loss also continues what has been a particularly brutal stretch over the past couple of months that has seen the team win just seven of its past 20 games.
It’s probably too early to start fully panicking in Montreal, but given the way the end of last season went this can’t be a promising development for Canadiens fans.
After taking just four shifts in in the first period of Thursday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson had to leave Thursday’s game with an unspecified injury.
The Blackhawks did not offer any update on what forced Hjalmarsson out of the game, only to say he would be out for the remainder of the evening.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks they dressed seven defensemen for the game when Michal Rozsival drew back into the lineup, so they still have a full lineup of defenders to finish the game. Surprisingly, Rozsival scored his first goal of the season just two minutes into the second period, breaking what had been a 3-3 tie following a wild first period that saw the teams combine for six goals.
In 59 games this season Hjalmarsson had five goals and nine assists while playing more than 20 minutes per night, mostly on a pairing with Duncan Keith.
The first period of Thursday’s Blackhawks-Coyotes game had just a little bit of excitement as the two teams combined for six goals, including two by the Coyotes in the final three minutes of the period to erase what had been a two-goal deficit.
All of the action started just 37 seconds into the game when Nick Schmaltz, playing on his 21st birthday, scored his sixth goal of the season (shown above) on a feed from a still white hot Jonathan Toews.
Seven minutes later, Coyotes rookie defenseman Jakob Chychrun scored his second goal in his as many games to get things even at one.
That is when the chaos started to break out. The Blackhawks quickly struck for two more goals when Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane scored six minutes apart to give the Blackhawks what would end up being a very short-lived 3-1 lead. Just one minute after Kane’s goal Ryan White netted his seventh of the season to bring the Coyotes back to within one, a goal that was followed by Radim Vrbata‘s 13th of the season just one minute after that.
Here are the two Coyotes goals that tied it.
Chicago came into the game on Thursday on a goal scoring tear, scoring at least four goals in seven of their past eight games. They are off to a great start when it comes to reaching that mark again on Thursday.
Trouble is, they can not seem to keep the puck out of their net on Thursday.
Winners of seven of their past eight, the Chicago Blackhawks are back home on Thursday night to take on the Arizona Coyotes.
The Blackhawks have been on a roll lately, especially offensively, scoring 34 goals in their past eight games. They have scored at least four goals in seven of those games. Captain Jonathan Toews has been doing a lot of the work offensively lately and is having a huge second half after a disappointing start to the season offensively.
On Thursday they host a Coyotes team that has shown a lot of improvement in recent weeks, putting together an 8-4-1 record since Jan. 20.
Puck drop for Thursday is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. ET and you can catch all off the action on NBCSN or on our Live Stream.
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Preview: Jonathan Toews looks to stay hot against Coyotes