Nugent-Hopkins named Team Canada captain for World Juniors

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been named captain of the Canadian team set to compete for gold at the 2013 World Junior tournament in Ufa, Russia.

The announcement wasn’t surprising — Nugent-Hopkins is the most experienced NHLer on the squad — but his selection does make for a unique story.

RNH will captain Team Canada despite having never represented his country at the World Junior level before — he was cut from Canada’s junior team as a 17-year-old in 2011 and wasn’t made available by the Oilers for the 2012 team.

That’s a far cry from what’s transpired for Team Canada at previous tournaments. Last year’s captain, Jaden Schwartz, participated in the 2011 tourney. The 2011 captain, Ryan Ellis, was an alternate in 2010. The 2010 captain, Patrice Cormier, played on the 2009 squad.

You get the picture.

As for the remainder of Team Canada’s roster, Florida Panthers prospect Jonathan Huberdeau and Pittsburgh draftee Scott Harrington were named as alternate captains.

It’s very possible one of the two could ascend to take the “C” should Nugent-Hopkins not make it through the tournament — Canadian coach Steve Spott said there were no guarantees RNH would remain with the team if the NHL lockout is resolved between now and the tournament’s conclusion (Jan. 5).

That said, Spott did pass along word that Edmonton was “fully supportive” of the decision to name Nugent-Hopkins captain.

Related: MacKinnon, Nugent-Hopkins headline Canada’s 2013 World Junior roster

Bolts close gap on struggling Bruins in playoff race

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Well, that was quite a third period.

For the Boston Bruins, it was disastrous. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, it propelled them to a critical victory in the playoff race.

Nikita Kucherov completed the hat trick with a pair of goals in the final period and Jonathan Drouin scored what would eventually be the winner, as Tampa Bay snapped its own three-game losing streak in a 6-3 victory, putting the Bolts within three points of the final wild card spot — held by the Bruins — in the Eastern Conference.

The Drouin goal — his 18th of the season but first since Feb. 19, a span of 13 games — is probably one Tuukka Rask would like back.

Drouin teed up the slap shot from the faceoff circle, beating Rask under the left arm.

And just like that, the Bruins have lost four consecutive games. On Saturday, they face the New York Islanders, another team looking to catch Boston in the wild card race.

Read more: Remember this stretch if Bruins settle for a wild card spot (or worse?)

The Islanders are only two points back of Boston.

Despite the win, there was bad news for the Lightning during this game, as defenseman Jason Garrison left with an injury.

From NHL.com:

The play occurred behind the Lightning goal, Garrison appearing to get his left leg rolled up from behind by a Bruin. Garrison had to be helped off the ice by Anton Stralman and Brayden Point and headed back to the Bolts’ locker room.

The team announced during the second intermission that Garrison sustained a lower-body injury. He did not return to the game.

Video: Ovechkin rocks custom skates for Russian Heritage Night

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As promised, Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rocked a pair of custom skates in honor of Russian Heritage Night on Thursday.

On his right skate, he paid tribute to the United States with a custom design, and paid tribute to his home nation on his left skate while taking the pre-game warm-up prior to facing the Columbus Blue Jackets.

He’ll be auctioning off the skates, as well.

From CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The skates were painted by noted custom shoe artists Nick Avery and Polo Kerber, whom Ovechkin personally selected. The skates feature the U.S. and Russia flags as well as the Capitol Building and Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral.

Video: Crosby slash leaves Methot’s finger bloodied and injured (Updated)

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Sidney Crosby has made news lately for his goal scoring and his use of the stick.

He speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt the other night, and on Thursday he delivered a slash to Senators defenseman Marc Methot, who has since not returned to the game.

The slash rendered a finger on Methot’s left hand bloodied and injured. It certainly didn’t look good as Method (calmly) skated to the bench.

There was no call on the play.

Updated: Methot won’t return to this game.

Show me the money! Nylander sets Leafs rookie record with latest assist

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Toronto’s talented rookies were back at it again Thursday, as William Nylander and Auston Matthews combined to set up the Maple Leafs’ first goal versus the New Jersey Devils.

Nylander added the second assist on the power play goal, giving him 35 helpers on the season.

That’s significant for a couple of reasons: He extends his point streak to 10 games, which sets a new Leafs rookie record. And the assist reportedly secured him another entry-level bonus:

Not bad.