JustinFaulk

PHT’s Pressing Olympic Questions: Did the U.S. go too young on D?

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21, 22, 24 and 25.

Those aren’t lottery numbers — they’re the ages Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, John Carlson/Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk will be when the U.S. opens the 2014 Winter Olympics against Slovakia.

Going so young on defense was one of the most surprising developments from USA Hockey’s roster announcement– well, aside from the “Bobby Ryan can’t spell intense” development — and remains a big question mark heading into Sochi. The U.S. completely overhauled its silver medal-winning blueline from Vancouver in 2010, returning just two defensemen (Brooks Orpik and Ryan Suter) while turning things over to the kiddie corps.

Veterans Orpik, Suter and Paul Martin (named to the ’10 squad, but missed to injury) are expected to lead, and with good reason. Faulk, Fowler, Carlson, McDonagh and Shattenkirk have never played in the Olympics before; Falk, Fowler and Shattenkirk have just 28 combined games of playoff experience.

“We have some leadership on the back end, we have some experience, we have guys that have been there before,” American head coach Dan Bylsma said, per the Canadian Press. “But we also have added some younger players. But I go back to being a team we think is going to be real sound defensively and real good defensively. With the young guys and the old guys we think we have that with that group.”

The U.S. braintrust — namely Bylsma and GM David Poile — have stressed speed, skating and puck movement as keys to their decisions. In selecting young defensemen they’ve done exactly that, eschewing the mold in Vancouver that relied more on physicality (Tim Gleason) and guys that weren’t so fleet of foot (Ryan Whitney).

But the change in approach isn’t without risks.

Four years ago, GM Brian Burke strategically tagged the U.S. as pre-tournament underdogs, saying “there’s not going to be a penny bet on this team.” That’s in stark contrast to this year’s club — “our goal is to go over there and win gold this time around,” Bylsma said — which puts an intense amount of pressure on first-time Olympians. What’s more, the contentious selection process has the youngsters under the microscope, as more seasoned veterans (and loyal international participants) like Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson were passed over.

Poile, though, insists he’s constructed the best blueline available:

On Fowler: “His game has grown in leaps and bounds. He’s been one of the best defencemen in the NHL this season.”

On Carlson: “This year he has transitioned from somewhat of a defensive defenseman to a two-way defenseman. He leads the NHL in shorthanded minutes [4:00 per game] with a team that’s pretty good in penalty killing and his offensive game has gone way up.”

On Faulk: “He certainly has his star rising. We like Justin’s game.”

It’ll be very interesting to see if this ballyhooed young group can live up to its potential while handling the pressure. Remember, one of the best Americans in Vancouver was 36-year-old Brian Rafalski, the team’s oldest player. He won best defenseman, made the tournament all-star team and skated with Suter as the team’s top defensive pair.

With Rafalski now gone, Suter looks to be the guy — which could be why Poile was comfortable surrounding Suter with so many young defensemen. At the end of the day, the American blueline sounds like it’ll rely on its star power to get through.

“I think Ryan’s coming-out party was in Vancouver, when he and Rafalski were our best defense pair,” Poile said. “We here in Nashville knew all along what kind of player Ryan was, but his career really took off from that point.

“He’s going to be counted on to anchor or defense, play big minutes, maybe with multiple partners, to make big contributions — which is nothing new with him.”

So it looks like Mike Ribeiro is a healthy scratch for the Predators

Nashville Predators' Mike Ribeiro (63) gets off a pass as he lies on the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh, Thursday, March 31, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Mike Ribeiro isn’t playing in Game 3 for the Nashville Predators against the San Jose Sharks, and it doesn’t appear to be for health reasons.

Well, his production hasn’t been very healthy.

The polarizing playmaker has only mustered a single assist and zero goals in nine playoff games; Ribeiro hasn’t scored a point against the Sharks so far.

Ribeiro isn’t exactly known for his offensive acumen, either, so there’s not much motivation to keep him in the lineup if he isn’t producing offense. Ultimately, it’s easy to see why he’s a healthy scratch.

Pontus Aberg looks to make his NHL debut via this big playoff game while Craig Smith is believed to play.

It should be interesting to see how Nashville responds to this challenge.

WATCH LIVE: Game 3 of Sharks – Predators, Stars – Blues

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) skates with the puck against St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) during the first period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals, Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The Nashville Predators hope to get back in their series now that the San Jose Sharks are visiting “Smashville.” Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars and Blues jostle for a 2-1 lead in St. Louis.

You can keep up with Game 3 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders (which is in progress) right here and on NBCSN.

Game 3 of Sharks – Predators is on USA Network and can be streamed via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Finally, Game 3 of Stars – Blues airs on NBCSN. Keep an eye out for notes if there’s overlap with Bolts – Isles (which would bump it temporarily to NHL Network), but either way, you can stream the action below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Video: Jonathan Drouin shaken up by huge Thomas Hickey hit

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Jonathan Drouin‘s strong playoff play has been a big story for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but his health is in question after taking a huge hit on Tuesday.

As you can see from the video above, Drouin was shaken up by an enormous check from New York Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey. It’s believed that Drouin went to “The Quiet Room” to see if he suffered a concussion; PHT will pass along whatever information becomes available.

(NHL teams aren’t exactly forthcoming with this information.)

The Islanders actually ended up with a power play from the fallout, as Hickey’s hit didn’t earn a penalty. The general reaction is that it wasn’t a dirty hit, yet some might disagree with that sentiment.

Update: Drouin didn’t come out during the beginning of the third period. He did, however, return midway through the final frame.

2016 Foundation Player Award finalists: Giordano, Martin, Subban

Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban walks away after taking with reporters during an end of season availability at the team training facility Monday, April 11, 2016 in Brossard, Quebec. None of the seven Canadian NHL teams was good enough this season to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs, a dismal milestone in the home of modern hockey and the first time it has happened since the 1969-70 season. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The NHL named the three finalists for the 2016 Foundation Player Award on Tuesday: Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, New York Islanders forward Matt Martin and Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.

The awarded is handed to “an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey — commitment, perseverance and teamwork — to enrich the lives of people in his community.”

The winner gets to hand $25K to the charity of his choice.