Five Americans to watch at World Juniors

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We’ve already taken a look at what Team Canada is bringing to the table for the 2012 World Junior Championships, and today Team USA and coach Dean Blais made their final cuts and chose the 22-man team they hope can win gold come January. While there were some surprise cuts and additions, there are five players who will be the biggest difference makers.

Jack Campbell – (G)

This is Campbell’s third go-round at World Juniors and after leading Team USA to gold in 2010 he’d like to rebound to do it again in Canada after not doing so hot last year. The Dallas Stars prospect getting the shot to shine on the big stage of the WJCs once again will hopefully show the Stars that their future franchise goalie is ready for prime time.

Jon Merrill – (D)

Merrill is a Devils prospect also playing in his third World Juniors. Merrill’s work from the blue line as both a solid defender and a power play leader will be necessary when it comes to the stiffer competition from Canada and Russia. Cashing in on the man advantage will be what makes the difference in the tournament. Without Justin Faulk to run the point, Merrill’s job becomes a big one.

Nick Bjugstad – (F)

Bjugstad is about as big of a forward as you’ll find on this American roster and his offensive skills make him a threat all over the ice. He can pass, he can park around the net and make goalies uncomfortable, he can rush the puck up the ice. If the Panthers prospect out of the University of Minnesota proves to be a force, the Americans will do very well.

Jason Zucker – (F)

No one’s been more impressive at the WJCs than Jason Zucker. The Wild prospect has seized the opportunity to shine the last two years at World Juniors and he comes into this year’s tournament with a wicked shot and offense to burn. Expect Zucker to show why his future is only getting brighter.

Emerson Etem – (F)

This Ducks prospect has only gotten better this year while playing for Medicine Hat in the WHL. He showed why the Ducks made him a first round pick last year in making Team USA and this time around he’ll be expected to be a leader. His speed and offensive flash as well as physical play at times makes him a top threat for the Americans.

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.