Heritage Classic Hockey

Frigid weather could cause problems for 2011 Heritage Classic

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Ideally, Calgary in February would be the most obvious environment for an outdoor hockey game. After all, the sport is supposed to be played in the hand-numbing-cold, right?

The concern is that Calgary’s weather might present a little too much of a good, cold thing on Sunday, though. Media members were supposed to play a friendly game on the 2011 Heritage Classic ice surface this morning, but NHL ice guru Dan Craig was forced to cancel the event after cracks appeared in the ice.

It’s true that the Jose Theodore wearing a Montreal Canadiens toque under his mask ended up being one of the enduring images of the original Heritage Classic, but there’s certainly a cut-off point in which cold weather can go from charming to dangerous. Craig apparently was able to get the ice surface to a safe level around 5 pm according to Dave Lozo’s story, so perhaps Craig was right when he said “it wasn’t a crisis, but it was a challenge.”

With similar forecasts to Friday’s -10 Celsius (or 14 degrees Fahrenheit) for Sunday, it sounds like Craig will face another challenging day during the NHL’s second outdoor game of the season.

Craig said the forecast calls for more of the same extremely low temperatures Saturday and Sunday, which means his crew will have to go through the same process it did Friday.

Saturday’s forecast from the Weather Channel calls for sunny skies and temperatures that will hover around minus-10 for the afternoon practices for the Canadians and Flames, as well as the late afternoon Alumni Game at McMahon Stadium. Sunday also calls for temps right around -10, as well as partly cloudy skies.

The game will have some serious playoff implications for both the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens, so one wonders what kind of impact such a bitterly cold game might have on both teams. Here is what two Flames players (captain Jarome Iginla and center Brendan Morrison) had to say about the icy temperatures to John Down of the Calgary Herald.

“I was pretty excited about it (weather) for awhile,” laughed Calgary captain Jarome Iginla, from the middle of a media crush following Friday afternoon’s skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome. “It was plus 2, plus 1, minus 1 and now I hear minus 11 or 10 or something so I’m not quite as excited but maybe it’ll change. If not, we’ll make the most of it.”

Nose icicles are bound to be the order of the day even with heaters at the players’ benches.

“My biggest concern?” repeated Brendan Morrison of the question. “How cold it’s going to be. I had a practice with my son’s team a little while ago and it was only minus 8 but by the end of the hour, my fingertips were frozen so that’s a concern.”

Sunday should be a great day of hockey fans all around North America, even if a few thousand up in Calgary might end up with a serious case of the sniffles.

Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

“Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

“The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

(The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

He left the game and didn’t return.

Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.

Patrik Laine to make highly anticipated preseason debut for Jets

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Patrik Laine gives an interview after being selected second by the Winnepeg Jets during round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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Anticipation has been building since the Winnipeg Jets officially took Patrik Laine with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft.

On Friday, Laine, the highly coveted Finnish forward, will make his preseason debut for the Jets when they play the Edmonton Oilers in Winnipeg, as the home fans get the chance to take in the occasion.

The Jets have done a nice job of amassing good young forwards in their organization. Laine, who has the gifts to be a prolific scorer in the NHL, is at the top of that prospect list.

Winnipeg’s roster tonight also includes forward prospects Kyle Connor, Nic Petan and Brandon Tanev, not to mention more NHL experienced forwards like Alex Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele.

Laine enters this season with high expectations placed on him from fans and media, after coming to the NHL following a standout career in Finland as a teenager. He’s aware of the expectations, but toned down the hype with the usual statements of just playing his game.

“Just be brave on the ice and show everybody I will earn my spot on the team,” he told reporters.

Laine has already seen game action this month. Not with the Jets, but with Finland’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.

Following offseason knee surgery, Laine wasn’t happy with his performance in Finland’s first pre-tournament game. In three tournament games, Laine failed to register a point, despite a team-best 10 shots on goal, as Finland was quickly eliminated in the round robin.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Patrik Laine

Murray: Ristolainen’s good-faith gesture unlikely to sway talks with Sabres

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Rasmus Ristolainen #55 of the Buffalo Sabres makes a pass during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray tells The Associated Press he doesn’t believe defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen‘s decision to join the team for practice without a contract will have any effect on thawing negotiations.

With a big laugh, Murray on Friday said the only way Ristolainen could speed up contract talks is if “he got all lovey-dovey” and elected to take the Sabres’ latest offer.

Ristolainen is a restricted free agent whose rights were retained by the Sabres in June. After representing Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, Ristolainen reported to the Sabres on Thursday in what was regarded as a sign of good faith.

Though he’s not allowed to play because he’s not under contract, Ristolainen is practicing with the team and also taking part in meetings. Ristolainen is not making himself available to reporters.

Murray says he didn’t see anything wrong with allowing Ristolainen to practice, saying he’d rather the player be in Buffalo than working out elsewhere.

Murray says the two sides are still negotiating.

In three seasons, Buffalo’s 2013 first-round draft pick has established himself as the Sabres’ top defenseman. Last year, Ristolainen led the team in averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time per game, and led Buffalo defensemen with 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists).