Canada shuts down high-flying U.S. offense, will play for gold

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The U.S. was averaging five goals per game heading into the Olympic semifinals.

Against Canada, it couldn’t muster one.

That was the story at the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Friday as Carey Price stopped all 31 shots faced and Canada continued its stifling defense in a 1-0 win over the Americans, securing a berth in the gold medal game for the second consecutive Olympics.

“Our back-checking was excellent tonight, and our forecheck was good,” Price told CBC’s Elliotte Friedman following the game. “We tried to stay on the right side of the puck the whole night, and the effort was there.”

VIDEO: Highlights from Canada’s 1-0 win

Jamie Benn scored the game’s lone marker — his second of the tournament — early in the second period, deflecting home a Jay Bouwmeester slap-pass. The game-winner was one of the biggest of Benn’s career and made for a great story, as Benn is the lone player on the Canadian team that didn’t get invited to Hockey Canada’s Olympic orientation camp.

For the Americans, getting shut out was a disappointment given their scoring exploits thus far.

After blowing opponents away with a relentless offensive attack, the U.S. was stymied by Price and a determined group of Canadian skaters that have now allowed just three goals over the course of this tournament. The Phil Kessel-Joe Pavelski-James van Riemsdyk line, which combined for 18 points over the first four U.S. games, was held in check and the rest of the forwards struggled to pick up the slack — the “Meat Line” of Dustin Brown, David Backes and Ryan Callahan, so successful in a quarterfinal win over the Czechs, failed to put a single shot on the Canadian goal.

VIDEO: Watch Jamie Benn’s goal

The U.S. also failed to convert on all three of its power play chances — despite coming in with the third-ranked PP (27. 3 percent) — though much of that had to do with Canada’s dogged determination on the penalty kill.

As the final score suggests, both goalies were great. Price was clutch in a 31-save shutout but Quick was just as good, if not better, in stopping 36 of 37 shots, including all 16 in a wild opening period that saw the teams trade chances throughout.

Looking ahead, Canada will now take on Sweden in the gold medal game, marking the first time a North American country will face a European one for gold since NHLers began Olympic participation in 1998.

The U.S. will take on Finland for bronze, looking to medal for the second straight Games and third in the last four.

Avalanche reportedly settle with Nieto, avoiding arbitration

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Matt Nieto won’t need his arbitration hearing on Monday.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Nieto has agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Nieto split last season between San Jose and Colorado, which claimed him off waivers in January.

In 43 games for the Avalanche, the 24-year-old forward scored seven goals with four assists.

Nieto was the only Colorado player on this summer’s arbitration list. However, the Avs still have a restricted free agent in Nikita Zadorov, who could be off to the KHL next season.

3 KHL players suspended after testing positive for banned substances

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The International Ice Hockey Federation has announced that three KHL players have been suspended after testing positive for banned substances.

Here’s an excerpt from the KHL’s website:

The IIHF has informed the KHL that three players – forward Danis Zaripov (then with Metallurg Magnitogorsk), defenseman Andrei Konev (Admiral Vladivostok) and defenseman Derek Smith (Medvescak Zagreb) – have tested positive for banned substances.

Derek Smith tested positive for a category S6.а stimulant.

Andrei Konev tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant.

Danis Zaripov tested positive for a category S6.b stimulant plus category S5 diuretics and masking agents.

Zapirov, who was part of Team Russia at the 2010 Olympic Games, has been banned from suiting up in “competitive hockey” until May 22, 2019. Konev will be unable to play until Nov. 19, 2017, while Smith, who is Canadian, will be suspended until Sep. 2, 2018.

Smith, 32, played in 94 NHL games with the Ottawa Senators and Calgary Flames between 2009-10 and 2013-14.

Report: John MacLean could join Tocchet’s coaching staff in Arizona

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The Arizona Coyotes have a new head coach, but Rick Tocchet still has to fill out the rest of his staff.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the ‘Yotes might be looking to add John MacLean to their coaching staff.

MacLean, 52, spent six years as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils (2002-2009) before becoming the head coach of their AHL affiliate. After one year of coaching in the minors, MacLean was promoted to head coach of the Devils. His tenure didn’t last very long, as he was fired after just 33 games (they were 9-22-2 under his watch).

He spent the following three seasons as an assistant in Carolina, but he was let go after the 2014 season.

MacLean hasn’t been back behind an NHL bench since being let go by the ‘Canes. Instead, he’s served as a hockey analyst on various television networks.

Related:

Tocchet wants Coyotes’ young players to be ‘creative’ and ‘calculated’

Tocchet brings lessons from past mistakes (and successes) to Coyotes

Sabres re-sign Robin Lehner to one-year, $4 million deal

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The Buffalo Sabres avoided salary arbitration with goalie Robin Lehner, as they inked him to a one-year, $4 million contract on Tuesday morning.

Lehner and the Sabres were scheduled to have their hearing on July 27, but that obviously won’t be necessary anymore.

The 26-year-old played a career-high 59 games in 2016-17. He finished the year with a 23-26-8 record, a 2.68 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.

There’s no doubt that he’s a talented netminder, but he’s had his share of struggles when it comes to staying healthy and being consistent. Of course, the team in front of him hasn’t been very good either.

Both of Buffalo’s goalies (Lehner and Chad Johnson) will have something to prove this season because they’re both on one-year contracts. When their deals expire next summer, Lehner will be a restricted free agent again, while Johnson will be free to test the market on July 1st.

The Sabres now have just over $10.9 million in cap space with RFAs Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Beaulieu and Evan Rodrigues still needing new contracts.

A huge extension for Jack Eichel is also on the horizon, but his new salary won’t count on the cap until 2018-19.