With the World Junior Championships coming up later this month and each country releasing the rosters for their training camps, a few organizations have had to make some tough decisions with their young NHL players. On Thursday night, the Anaheim Ducks announced that the team will loan rookie forward Devante Smith-Pelly to Hockey Canada for the upcoming camp and tournament. Likewise, it’s been reported that the Tampa Bay Lightning will release forward Brett Connolly to Hockey Canada as well.
Eric Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports that Connolly will head to Calgary for Team Canada’s camp on Saturday. The decision to release the 19-year-old rookie was made before Martin St. Louis went down with his injury; the team didn’t change their mind when they learned St. Louis would miss time. Connolly was part of Canada’s silver medal winning team at least year’s WJC and he’ll look to improve on that if he makes this year’s team.
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher talked about the opportunity for Connolly: “…it’s going to be a great moment for him to live that pressure and be one of the top guys. And that’s an incredible experience for him for the future because he’s going to be able to take more pressure and the toughest moments. That’s what you get out of (playing for) Team Canada.”
On the other coast, the Ducks announced 19-year-old Devante Smith-Pelly will get his first opportunity to make Team Canada at the WJC. He was one of the last cuts last season, but took his game to another level in the OHL playoffs last season and made the Ducks’ roster out of training camp.
“This is a great opportunity for Devante to continue his development,” said Executive Vice President/General Manager Bob Murray. “Being a candidate for Team Canada in such a prestigious tournament is a great honor. He’s improving each day as an NHL player and we hope he can continue his progress after playing for his country. We fully expect him to play a prominent role in the upcoming tournament for Canada.”
On the other hand, Florida Panthers look like they’ll have different plans for defenseman Erik Gudbranson. The third-overall pick in the 2010 draft has been playing win the surprising Panthers all season and will probably not be released for the few weeks of the tournament. Instead, he’ll stay up at the NHL level and help the Florida Panthers compete for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
It’s always a tough decision for general managers when they weigh the experience a prospect will gain when at the WJC against the injury risk while playing for another team. Each team is in a different situation—each player is also in a different situation for that matter.
On Thursday, both the Lightning and the Ducks decided it would be most beneficial for their promising young players to get a taste of the pressure of the WJC.
The San Jose Sharks became the only team in the second round to jump out to a 2-0 lead in their series. The Sharks did it by beating the Predators 3-2 in Game 2 on Sunday night.
San Jose opened the scoring in the second period when Logan Couture buried a rebound by Preds goalie Pekka Rinne. Brent Burns took the initial shot from the point and extended his playoff point streak to four games.
The Predators finally got on the board at the 12:56 mark of the third period when Mattias Ekholm tied the game at one.
Here’s the goal:
Nashville’s good fortune didn’t last very long. Sharks captain Joe Pavelski gave San Jose a 2-1 lead less than five minutes later.
Pavelski also picked up two assists in the game. The 31-year-old has at least one point in six of his seven postseason games in 2016.
Joe Thornton then added an empty-netter in the final minute of play before Ryan Johansen scored with four seconds remaining.
Despite the loss, Preds head coach Peter Laviolette wasn’t too disappointed by the way his team played.
The Predators outshot the Sharks (39-25), they outhit San Jose (46-26), but they just couldn’t outscore them.
Like the old saying goes: “you’re not in trouble until you lose a game on home ice.” The Preds still haven’t done that, which means they’re not done yet.
The series now shifts to Nashville for Game 3, which will be played on Tuesday night.
It’s a scary night for players getting hit in the head with pucks.
After Brian Elliott was hit in the head by a Jason Spezza slapshot, it was Marc-Edouard Vlasic‘s turn to narrowly avoid disaster.
In the third period of Sunday’s game against the Predators, Vlasic took a puck to the face. The end result could have been catastrophic had Vlasic not had a visor.
You can see the incident by clicking the video at the top of the page.
It’s nice to see that Vlasic was in a joking mood after the game:
Hockey Twitter breathed a collective sigh of relief after Vlasic got back up:
You’ve all seen it by now (if you haven’t, click the video at the top of page). Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta was forced to leave Game 2 against the Capitals after taking a late hit from Brooks Orpik. Not only was the hit late, but Orpik also caught Maatta in the head.
After the Penguins’ optional skate on Sunday, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan wasn’t optimistic about Maatta’s chances of playing in Game 3 on Monday night.
“Olli’s being evaluated as we speak, so I don’t have any real update as far as his status is concerned,” Sullivan said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He’s being evaluated today, we’ll probably have more information in the morning.
“I don’t have a lot of sense of his availability. I’m probably not optimistic, though.”
After the game, Capitals coach Barry Trotz stood up for his defenseman.
“We’ll let the league handle it,” Trotz said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “If you know anything about Brooks, he plays hard, he plays clean. He’s not a dirty player.”
And the league certainly did handle it, as they suspended Orpik for three games.
—Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta
Brooks Orpik has been suspended for three games for his hit on Olli Maatta (top). The Caps defenseman will be forced to miss Games 3, 4 and 5 of the best-of-seven series against the Penguins.
Orpik delivered a late, high hit to Maatta in Game 2. The Penguins defenseman was wobbly getting off the ice and he was unable to return to the game.
Here’s how the Department of Players Safety saw the play:
“Orpik steps up to pressure Bonino, who quickly moves the puck to Maatta. Orpik peels off Bonino to pressure Maatta, who releases a shot from the top of the circle. The two continue on their path toward the goal line, as the puck is kicked into the slot. A full second after Maatta releases the puck, Orpik delivers a high, forceful hit making significant head contact. This is interference.”
To watch the NHL’s Department of Player Safety’s full explanation, click the video below.
This is the third time Orpik’s been suspended in his NHL career.