Selanne, Rask highlight Finland’s Olympic Camp roster

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Finland has named its 54-man camp roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi — a group filled with veteran experience at forward and arguably the best goaltending depth in the world.

Up front, the Finns have invited a slew of NHLers, including a number of elder statesmen: Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu, Olli Jokinen and Antti Miettinen, all of whom are 32 or older.

The most notable inclusion is Selanne, the 42-year-old winger that would be participating in his sixth Winter Olympics should he be selected for Sochi.

Selanne made his Olympic debut at the 1992 games in Albertville, finishing fourth in scoring (behind Canada’s Joe Juneau and Czechoslovakia’s Robert Lang, to give you an idea of how long ago that was.)

In goal, Finland boasts a wealth of talent.

Tuukka Rask, fresh off a Stanley Cup Final appearance with Boston, has been selected for camp, as has ’13 Vezina nominee Antti Niemi, ’12 Vezina nominee Pekka Rinne, NHL wins leader Niklas Backstrom, Dallas starter Kari Lehtonen and newly-signed Flames goalie Karri Ramo.

The Finns are weakest on defense, where only a handful of NHL regulars — Toni Lydman, Joni Pitkanen, Sami Salo, Kimmo Timonen — made the camp roster.

Here’s the full list of invitees:

Goalies

Niklas Backstrom, Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi, Antti Raanta, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne, Karri Ramo, Petri Vehanen

Defensemen

Jusso Hietanen, Topi Jaakola, Joonas Harvinen, Jere Karalahti, Lasse Kukkonen, Teemu Laakso, Sami Lepisto, Toni Lydman, Tuukka Mantyla, Janne Niskala, Petteri Nummelin, Joni Pitkanen, Sami Salo, Kimmo Timonen, Sami Vatanen, Ossi Vaananen

Forwards

Juhamatti Aaltonen, Aleksander Barkov, Sean Bergenheim, Valtteri Filppula, Mikael Granlund, Niklas Hagman, Teemu Hartikainen, Juha-Pekka Hytonen, Jarkko Immonen, Jesse Joensuu, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Jokinen, Niko Kapanen, Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu, Leo Komarov, Petri Kontiola, Lauri Korpikoski, Jarno Koskiranta, Jori Lehtera, Ville Leino, Antti Miettinen, Janne Pesonen, Lennart Petrell, Antti Pihlstrom, Jarkko Ruutu, Tuomo Ruutu, Sakari Salminen, Veli-Matti Savinainen, Teemu Selanne

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

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How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.

Who could take Taylor Hall’s place if he has to miss the All-Star Game?

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With Taylor Hall set to miss the next couple of games due to a hand injury, and with that injury putting his All-Star Game prospects in jeopardy, we look at the players who are worthy of replacing the New Jersey Devils forward if he has to miss this weekend’s festivities.

Two names that immediately come to mind are Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel and Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier.

There was already an argument that Kessel deserved to be at the ASG over Sidney Crosby. He was leading the Penguins in points then and two weeks later, he continues to pace Pittsburgh with 21 goals (tied with Evgeni Malkin) and 54 points, three more points than Crosby.

Couturier has already smashed his previous career highs in both goals (26) and points (47). He’s been part of the reason that Claude Giroux is already headed to the ASG and deserves to be there himself.

At third would have to be Sebastian Aho. The talent in the Metropolitan is evident with his snub. He’s clearly the best player on the Carolina Hurricanes this season (no disrespect to Teuvo Teravainen).

Aho is well on his way to eclipsing his rookie-season totals and a big reason why the Hurricanes are three points back of a playoff spot.

Beyond those three guys, there’s a few that certainly deserve the honor:

  • Anders Lee has 27 goals this season, seven off the pace he set last season with half the season to go.
  • Jakub Voracek leads the NHL with 45 assists, four more than teammate Giroux.
  • Evgeni Malkin. Not having a bad year.

It’s important to remember that the at-least-one-player-per-team rule goes out the window when it comes to replacing another All-Star.

There are certainly some very deserving names that didn’t get the first call.

But life’s about second chances.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Tampa Bay Lightning vs Chicago Blackhawks

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Projected Lines

Tampa Bay Lightning

Nikita KucherovBrayden PointTyler Johnson

Vladislav NamestnikovSteven StamkosChris Kunitz

Alex Killorn — Matthew Peca — Yanni Gourde

Michael Bournival — Cedric PaquetteRyan Callahan

Jake DotchinAnton Stralman

Mikhail SergachevDan Girardi

Braydon CoburnAndrej Sustr

Starting goalie: Andrei Vasilevskiy

NHL on NBCSN: ‘Out of sync’ Lightning look to end three-game losing skid against ‘Hawks

Chicago Blackhawks

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsAnthony Duclair

Patrick SharpNick SchmaltzPatrick Kane

Alex DeBrincatArtem AnisimovRyan Hartman

Tomas Jurco — David Kampf — Vinnie Hinostroza

Duncan KeithJordan Oesterle

Erik Gustafsson — Brent Seabrook

Michal KempnyConnor Murphy

Starting goalie: Jeff Glass

Are Penguins making the right call with Sprong demotion?

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After being a healthy scratch for two games and seemingly being in the doghouse since at least Jan. 17, Daniel Sprong is headed back to the AHL.

To some degree, the move was made because it seems like Bryan Rust is getting ready to return to the mix after being sidelined since Dec. 27. Still, it’s a frustrating development for those who believe in Sprong’s potential as the 46th pick of the 2015 NHL Draft.

All of the 20-year-old’s points came in one game, as Sprong scored two goals and one assist against the Islanders on Jan. 5. He went without a point in his other seven appearances in the NHL this season, with six coming during his latest stint.

Sprong was in the double digits in ice time each night until the Penguins’ loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 17, when he was glued to the bench from the second period on. Considering his lack of production in general, it’s understandable that head coach Mike Sullivan is more reactive to mistakes.

Certain details make the move more debatable, though.

For those who believe that Ryan Reaves‘ role is antiquated, it must be frustrating to see Sprong get demoted. Reaves has been averaging less than seven minutes per game (6:41) despite taking a spot in the lineup for 49 contests. Pittsburgh is in a life-or-death battle for a playoff spot, and many believe that his presence (and the first rounder they gave up to acquire him) is a waste for the Penguins.

The Pens also seem like they’re taking a questionable all-or-nothing approach with Sprong.

Sprong’s most common even-strength linemates (by far) were Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon, via Natural Stat Trick. Maybe Sprong isn’t quite the right fit for Crosby at this point in his career, but there has to be at least a chance that he could provide more punch for the Penguins’ lineup than someone like Reaves lower in the lineup?

His possession stats have been solid in a small sample size and he hasn’t been shy, firing just less than three shots on goal per game (22 SOG in eight games). Couldn’t the Penguins find room for Rust and Sprong?

These are questions at least some Penguins media members and fans are asking right now, but the bottom line is that the team clearly believes that Reaves is a difference-maker. If Sprong is going to rank as one as well, it sounds like he’ll need to earn his next chance first.

We’ll see how the Sprong-less Penguins fare against the Carolina Hurricanes in a pretty important game on Tuesday. In other Penguins news, Matt Murray was overwhelmed by the support he received from his team and teammates following his father’s death.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.