Eric Staal helped Canada win gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, but wasn’t selected to defend it at the ’14 games in Sochi — a decision, he says, that’s left a sour taste in his mouth.
“To be honest, my gut feeling, yeah I’m bitter about it,” Staal told Sportsnet on Thursday. “Being there last time and knowing what it takes to win a gold and feeling like I was a good contributor to the group and someone that brings it when it counts—especially the end—I wanted that opportunity again.”
Staal, 29, has been a pretty loyal soldier to the Canadian national team over the years. In addition the ’10 Olympics, he’s played in three World Championships — including the 2013 tournament, in which he served as team captain (and was taken out at the knee by Sweden/Vancouver defenseman Alex Edler.)
Staal also served on Canada’s “taxi squad” for the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
A left-handed center that moved to wing in Vancouver, Staal was beat out by the likes of Patrick Sharp, Patrick Marleau, Chris Kunitz and Matt Duchene for a spot on this year’s team (Canada’s centers are Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron and John Tavares.)
Staal acknowledged how much talent there was ahead of him on the team, and — given he’s not having a great year (35 points in 42 games, minus-15) and is currently sidelined with a lower-body injury — was realistic about the situation.
“I’m obviously disappointed, but sometimes that’s what life throws at you,” he said. “It’s all about how you respond. That’s the way it goes and I don’t want to make excuses.”
As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.
Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.
Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.
That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.
Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.
It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.
To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.
Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.
In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.
And then Stamkos took the warmup.
As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.
“If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”
No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.
EDINA, Minn. (AP) Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise has been rehabilitating his back injury without surgery, putting him on track to be at full strength by September.
Parise said Thursday he’s “happy with the way everything’s going.” He said he’s been able to work out as he normally does during the summer, despite missing the playoffs because of the injury.
Parise said there’s “no question” he’ll be ready to play for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.
Parise joined teammates Erik Haula, Jason Pominville, Nate Prosser, Jared Spurgeon and Jason Zucker at an autograph signing to raise money for people affected by the wildfires in Alberta. The parents of Spurgeon’s wife, Danielle, lost their home to a fire in the Edmonton area.