Canada crushes U.S. 4-1 in WJC semifinal; America will face Sweden in bronze medal game Wednesday

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In a rare moment for American hockey, the United States World Junior team went into tonight’s semifinal game against Canada as the prohibitive favorites. After all, the U.S. team boasted more returning players from last year’s gold medal winning team than the Canadians brought back from their runner-up squad.

Instead of earning the right to play in back-to-back gold medal games, the Americans were absolutely out-classed by the Canadians by a score of 4-1 in front of a pro-Great White North crowd in Buffalo.

Sometimes the scoreboard or box score doesn’t tell the story of a game, but in tonight’s contest, the Americans were lucky to only lose by three goals. The Canadian team dominated from the very beginning, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period as their opponents looked flat.

U.S. goalie Jack Campbell might be the only American who truly came to play for the red white and blue in this one, but he couldn’t pull a Jim Craig to keep them in a wildly out-matched contest. He made 37 out of 41 saves while his counterpart Mark Visentin had a leisurely night for the most part, stopping 22 out of 23 pucks.

Canada scored the first four goals, with Curtis Hamilton, Quinton Howden, Ryan Johansen and Zack Kassian finding the net. Flower Mound, Texas native Chris Brown scored the lone U.S. goal when the game was well out of reach.

Team Canada will face their long-time international rivals from Russia in the gold medal game while the United States must settle for a bronze medal matchup against an angry Swedish team. Both games will take place on Wednesday and will be available to U.S. fans via the NHL Network.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.