In what turned out to be the first marquee game of the World Junior Championships, it would be Team Russia and its defense holding strong and taking out Team USA, 2-1.
With all the stars on the ice for both teams, it would be Russian goalie, and Buffalo Sabres prospect, Andrey Makarov shining brightest stopping 41 shots and frustrating Team USA’s shooters all game.
When it wasn’t Makarov stopping them in goal, it was Russia’s skaters taking time and space away from the Americans and blocking shots. Even in the closing minutes, Nail Yakupov sprawled out head-first to get in front of a shot. (Bet the Oilers loved seeing that.)
Jacob Trouba had Team USA’s lone goal on the power play in the second period. John Gibson stopped 28 shots in the loss.
After the game, Team USA coach Phil Housley told NHL Network’s Rob Simpson he was happy with his team’s effort but thought they may have gotten “too cute” at times. Doing that helped nullify rushes up ice and ended threats before they could begin.
With the regulation loss, Team USA now heads into their game against Team Canada on Sunday needing to get points in one way or another. After Canada disposed of Slovakia earlier today, they moved to the top of Group B with six points. Russia sits in second place with five while Team USA is third with three. With Slovakia in fourth with one point, further American losses put them in danger of being jumped in the standings.
Sweden edged Switzerland 3-2 in a shootout. Habs prospect Sebastian Collberg and Hurricanes prospect Victor Rask each had goals for the Swedes.
Czech Republic upset Finland 3-1. Kings prospect Tomas Hyka scored for the Czechs while Teuvo Teravainen had Finland’s lone tally.
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.
Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.
“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”
Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.
Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).
So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.
Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.
Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.
He was asked if he was playing.
So, no problems?
And that was that.
No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.
“Very confident,” said Sullivan.
Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.
Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.
Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.
Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).