Crosby: Canada must strike balance between patience and urgency

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SOCHI, Russia — Under the microscope after failing to score in Team Canada’s first three games, Sidney Crosby met with reporters today to talk about, among other things, the challenges of international hockey versus the NHL.

“I think you are a little further away from the net when they put pressure on you, so instead of being one or two steps away, having to fight to get to the net, you are probably four or five, so it takes longer to get there,” he said, per the Olympic News Service.

“So usually by that time, they have someone to support, to make sure that if you do have that step, it is tougher to get there. That combined with the fact that a lot of these teams have played like that for a long time, with that system, I think they have a pretty good grasp on how they want to play.”

Just as he did following Sunday’s 2-1 overtime win versus Finland, Crosby lauded his team’s patient, possession-minded approach, which has yielded three victories while outscoring opponents 11-2.

“Last night, we had good puck possession and I think we felt that eventually we’d be able to wear them down,” he said. “They competed hard and did a good job, but I think we know that the game dictates the way you have to play.”

Crosby added: “By forcing something, you are going to dig a puck out of your net because you’re forcing something that’s not there. There’s a balance between taking what’s given to you and making sure you’re going after them and not sitting back.”

Despite the attention the lack of scoring has brought, Canada has dominated its opponents in terms of possession. Against Norway, Austria, and Finland, the shots were a combined 111-58 for the defending gold medalists.

“Some guys on the team are used to putting up three points a night and when that doesn’t happen, you can’t get too frustrated,” said forward Rick Nash.

But there are still areas that can be improved upon.

“We’ve played three games now and it’s been drilled into our heads we need to get off the wall and try to make the ice as small as we can make it,” said forward Jeff Carter, who tallied a hat trick versus Austria. Only two other forwards, Jamie Benn and Ryan Getzlaf, have scored for Canada in Sochi.

On Wednesday, a quarterfinal match-up, most likely with the defensive-minded Swiss, awaits.

“On the big ice you can kind of just sit back and make the zones even smaller than they are,” said Nash, “and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Caps’ Vrana hoping to earn spot with Ovechkin, Kuznetsov

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It looks like the Washington Capitals are going to give Jakub Vrana the opportunity of a lifetime.

Washington has given the young winger a chance to earn a spot on the right side of the top line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

On Wednesday night, they got to put the chemistry to the test, as Vrana and the Caps played the Canadiens in Montreal.

Vrana finished the game with a power play goal (an innocent shot that went off Canadiens defenseman Brandon Davidson and in the net). Kuznetsov and Ovechkin registered the assists on the goal and the Caps won 4-2.

“We played fast today,” Vrana said, per the Washington Post. “We had some passes today, some chances. It’s always a good sign when you have chances. … You’re going to be confident when you play with guys like this. You’re just going to be confident on the ice with the puck. Just play fast and build some chemistry there.”

The 21-year-old got his first taste of real NHL action last season, but the production simply wasn’t there (three goals and three assists in 21 games). But the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft did put up solid numbers in the AHL, as he had 36 points in 49 games last year and 34 points in 36 games with the Hershey Bears two years ago.

“He gets to space,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “He gets on the puck because he moves his legs and his speed is noticeable. Kuzy can get him the puck, and getting down ice, he can put some pressure to create a forecheck, too. He worked hard today, and I think we keep putting him with top players, because we think he’s going to be a top player.”

WATCH LIVE: Canucks vs. Kings from Shanghai, China

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The Vancouver Canucks and L.A. Kings will make history on Thursday.

The two teams will face each other in an exhibition series in China, marking the first time NHL teams will play preseason games in that country. The two-game set gets underway with Thursday’s contest from the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.

Set your alarms, wake up early (especially if you’re on the west coast!), put on a pot of coffee and catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 a.m. ET) or online with the live stream.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Here are some links to check out for today’s game:

NHL hopes to make inroads in China with exhibition games

It was a little on the foggy side for Canucks practice in Shanghai

Canucks-Kings exhibition series in China highlights preseason schedule

NHL preseason games in China are ‘the biggest deal’ for local fans

NHL looks to China to ‘expand the sport’

 

Video: Flames goalie makes incredible behind-the-back glove save

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A save of the year candidate in September? It’s possible.

Jon Gillies of the Calgary Flames made an incredible stop during Wednesday’s exhibition game against the Vancouver Canucks.

The camera angle from directly above the net is the best, as it clearly shows how Gillies appeared to bump the puck back toward the goal line, then suddenly reach back with a no-look, behind-the-back glove save to prevent a Canucks goal and stop play.

That is one incredible save.

Drouin shows ‘commitment’ to community with donation to Montreal hospital

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Jonathan Drouin has yet to play a regular season game for his new team, the Montreal Canadiens.

But after getting traded to the Habs in the summer, Drouin has already made a sizable contribution in the community, donating $500,000 over 10 years to the University of Montreal Hospital Centre and planning to help in the fundraising activities to raise an additional $5 million, according to The Canadian Press.

From Sportsnet:

“I think all of that had some impact on his overall decision making,” Drouin’s agent Allan Walsh told Sportsnet. “One day when he’s retired and 50 years old, that hospital [which will begin serving patients for the first time this coming October] will still be here and he’ll have played a role in its development. That means something to him.

“But I think more than anything else he wants to help people. If he can help people—the hospital is going to be the largest hospital in North America and there’s a tremendous need for it in the city—and if he can use the fact that he plays for the Montreal Canadiens to do that, I wish more players felt that kind of responsibility to their communities.”

As noted in the Sportsnet piece above, Drouin is following in the footsteps of Saku Koivu and P.K. Subban, who made generous donations in the community during their time in Montreal.

The Habs acquired Drouin from the Lightning in June, sending prospect defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to Tampa Bay. They then signed the 22-year-old forward — who was born in nearby Ste-Agathe, Que. — to a six-year, $33 million contract.

It won’t be long before the pressure falls on Drouin’s on-ice ability, especially playing as a potential No. 1 center in Montreal and essentially being a hometown player for the Habs. But without even playing a meaningful game for his new team, he’s already giving back to an important cause in the city.

“And when you look at that, if you make $6 million and you give $50,000 a year, it’s not a big deal and you get tax receipts,” he said, per the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s a commitment, and being involved in the community and doing something for your community I think it’s something that you have to do.”