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Action and reaction from a whirlwind Fantasy All-Star Draft

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Last night’s All-Star Fantasy Draft provided a lot of fun for the players and for those of us in the media looking to have some fun with such a new, quirky way. Asking the guys about strategy and about where they’d like to end up, getting the pre-draft and post-draft reactions provided some of their own entertainment.

A lot of attention was focused on team captain Nicklas Lidstrom. After all, having to lead the way in choosing sides, it’s all part of the job. Lidstrom said he went into last night’s fantasy draft with no real game plan to run with.

“No, no scouting at all for this game,” Lidstrom chuckled. “I know the players pretty well as it is so I didn’t need to do any scouting for them. Kenny (Holland) says ‘defense wins championships’  but I don’t think that will work for a game like this.”

Once the draft was over and Lidstrom’s squad was set up with a host of current and former Chicago Blackhawks alike in Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Dustin Byfuglien and Martin Havlat, Lidstrom was happy to spill the beans why his team has a distinctive Chicago flavor.

“Kane had some part in picking those guys but I don’t mind it either. I faced those guys all the time so it’ll be nice to play with them instead.”

One guy who had a man-of-the-hour flair about him was Team Staal’s first overall pick Cam Ward. Going into the draft Ward was hopeful that he could end up being Staal’s first pick and after winning that recognition, he was more than happy and a bit surprised to get the nod.

“I was surprised. Staal’er wouldn’t lay down his cards and tell me what he’d do. He’s a good friend but I didn’t know if he’d want me to sweat it out down there either.”

Ward was also really excited about having his teammates Staal and Jeff Skinner all together on the team.

“We talked about how great it would be to have us all together on one team and how good it would be for the home fans and it’s nice that it worked out that way.”

One of the more amusing side dramas for the night came for New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Staal was passed on by his brother Eric on multiple rounds leading to an amusing quip during the draft from him saying how disappointed their mother would be in Eric for not picking him.

Making matters a bit worse for Marc is that his brother also chose his teammate Henrik Lundqvist ahead of him as well. So which one is worse, being made to sweat it out or being picked after his teammate?

“I think giving Henrik bragging rights was worse than waiting.”

So how does one deal with potential Swedish goaltender heckling? Marc’s got a good way to deal with it.

“I don’t know how much I’ll hear from him. I’ll just hit him with a slapper in practice if he does though.”

The key aspect from everyone here is that the players all had fun doing this. From seeing how relaxed the players are in dealing with the throngs of media here to just having fun with the whole thing it’s got to be a relief to be able to just let loose for a few days with your buddies from around the league.  How much that fun stuff shown off on the ice when it comes time to show the pride in your team remains to be seen just yet, but so far for the NHL their mission to make the All-Star Game more interesting is working.

Team Canada stuns Team Europe with late comeback to claim World Cup

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 29: Patrice Bergeron #37 of Team Canada is congratulated by his teammate Steven Stamkos #91 after scoring a third period goal during the third period during Game Two of the World Cup of Hockey final series at the Air Canada Centre on September 29, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. The Team Canada defeated the Team Europe 2-1.  (Photo by Peter Power/Getty Images)
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John Tavares hit the post on a wide open net. Steven Stamkos whiffed on a one-time slap shot attempt. And Team Europe shut down every other player wearing red and white — for about 57 minutes.

Yup. It looked like it would be that kind of night for Team Canada.

After running through the World Cup competition during the round robin and semifinal portions, Canada was facing the possibility it could suddenly be forced into a third and decisive game against an underdog Team Europe.

Cue an improbable comeback.

Down 1-0 and finding it difficult to get anything going offensively, it started for Team Canada with a power play goal on a deflection from Patrice Bergeron. And then, with 44 seconds remaining in regulation time, the Canadians struck again, this time on the penalty kill, as Jonathan Toews set up Brad Marchand for what turned out to be the winning goal.

Team Canada claims the World Cup, winning Game 2 on Thursday by a final score of 2-1. Sidney Crosby was named tournament MVP.

Team Canada had surged by its opponents thanks to such a deep, skilled lineup and the goaltending of Carey Price. But after taking the first game of this best-of-three series, the Canadians looked completely out of sync in the second act.

They weren’t the faster team, especially in the first period.

They turned the puck over. They gave up too many odd-man rushes. Their power play didn’t capitalize — until it mattered the most.

If it weren’t for the play of Price, this one could’ve been a blowout. His best save came off Marian Hossa late in the third period.

Since the elimination of Team USA, Team North America, Team Russia and Team Sweden, it seemed like the drama would be drained from this tournament as it came to its close, the Canadians looking like a runaway champion.

The final seemed like it was only a formality.

For a long time Thursday, it looked like Team Europe could actually force a Game 3. But Canada has found another way to win.

But this time, it was far from a dominant effort.

Report: No timetable for Sharks’ Meier to return from illness

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Timo Meier poses for a portrait after being selected ninth overall by the San Jose Sharks during the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Timo Meier and the San Jose Sharks aren’t taking any chances.

An illness, reported to initially be strep throat, has kept the prospect forward off the ice for five straight days, as per Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area. There is no timetable for his return, the report adds, and that could have an impact on whether Meier makes the Sharks roster out of training camp.

From CSN Bay Area:

The illness has likely diminished Meier’s chances to make the opening night roster, as he’ll miss the Sharks’ second preseason game on Friday and will probably not be in any condition to play on Sunday in Vancouver, either. It was thought before camp that the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft was ready to seriously challenge for a spot on the Sharks, perhaps even as a replacement for Tomas Hertl on the top line if Hertl becomes third line center.

Meier spent last season in the QMJHL, where he scored 34 goals and 87 points in 52 games split between the Halifax Mooseheads and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

It was around this time last year the Sharks sent Meier back to junior, after he left quite an impression on the Sharks coaching staff during the preseason.

‘I’ve got to be more aware’ on the ice, says Ekblad after recent injury

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 17: Aaron Ekblad #5  of the Florida Panthers leaves the ice following warmups prior to Game Three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the New York Islanders during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 17, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As per multiple reports, Aaron Ekblad practiced with his Florida Panthers teammates Thursday.

Good news. That marks another step in the progress he’s made from a neck injury — initially reported to be a concussion — suffered on a hit from Leo Komarov that ultimately ended the defenseman’s experience for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey.

On Thursday, Ekblad told reporters the injury was actually whiplash.

The 20-year-old Ekblad has had a history of concussions, including one from a Hockey Canada camp in August, 2014 — almost two full months after the Panthers selected him first overall.

He was injured again in January of last season when Matt Hendricks caught him with a dangerous hit against the end boards, resulting in a suspension for Hendricks.

Despite supplemental discipline from the league on that specific incident involving Hendricks, Ekblad, a valuable part of a young Panthers team that has increased expectations surrounding it, put the onus on himself to be more aware on the ice.

“When I think about it in the Edmonton game last year, there were a couple of big hits on their guys. I should have expected to someone was going to come after me,” Ekblad told NHL.com.

“Obviously you don’t think that. You think there’s a little bit more respect among players out there. I turned, I saw him. I didn’t think he was going to drive my head into the glass. The Komarov hit there, he got me on the shoulder, not much on the head or anything like that. It was more of the whiplash effect. Again, I’ve got to be more aware. You train your body, you train your brain to do that kind of thing. I do a lot of eye exercises and stuff like that. We’re working on that right now and just trying to be a better hockey player that way.”

The Panthers have a preseason game with the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. Ekblad is not in the lineup.

Stars sign WHL d-man Vala to entry-level deal

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The Dallas Stars have added another defenseman to their group of prospects.

On Thursday, the club signed 18-year-old Czech blue liner Ondrej Vala to a three-year entry-level contract. Vala is currently playing for the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League. He had four goals and 21 points in 72 games last season — his first with the Blazers.

Having represented the Czech Republic at U-17 and U-18 international events and played for the Stars prospects team at the Traverse City Tournament, Vala is also listed at six-foot-four-inches tall and 209 pounds.

He certainly brings size on the blue line, which is a quality the Stars appear to value in him.

“Ondrej has shown a combination of size and physicality along with the ability to play a defensively responsible game at the junior hockey level,” said Stars GM Jim Nill in a statement.

Related:

Another — yes, another — blow for Dallas as Janmark spotted on crutches