Cam Tucker

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 21: Logan Couture #39 of Team Canada is congratulated on his third period goal by Jonathan Toews #16 and Drew Doughty #8 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 against Team Europe during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at the Air Canada Centre on September 21, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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Poll: Which team — North America or Russia — do you want to see play Team Canada in the semifinals?

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Later today, Team Canada will find out which team it will face in its World Cup of Hockey semifinal.

After defeating Team Europe to clinch top spot in Group A, Canada will either face the young stars from Team North America, or a familiar rival in Team Russia.

Due to the head-to-head tiebreaker, if Russia beats Finland in today’s round robin game (puck drop is 3 p.m. ET), Canada will face the Russians. But a Russian loss of any kind would result in Canada facing TNA for the right to advance to the best-of-three final.

Both possible matchups are intriguing because of the star power involved and both could present Canada with a challenge in a one-game, winner-take-all environment.

Both Team North America and Team Europe have been called gimmicks as additions to this World Cup.

But now an argument could be made that both teams have provided something new and exciting to the competition. Team Europe, which includes players representing eight different countries outside of Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic, is off to the semifinal round versus Sweden after initially looking out of place and behind the pace in the pre-tournament games.

Team North America, boasting a youthful and highly skilled lineup, has provided a number of thrills in this tournament. That captivating, back-and-forth three-on-three overtime win against Sweden on Wednesday won’t soon be forgotten.

They have taken this event by storm.

“You know what, we were just talking, Dave Tippett has coached probably more games than probably the rest of our staff put together and we have coaches that have been around for a while, but we became fans,” said Team North America coach Todd McLellan.

“I was standing on the bench, ‘no, no, no’ and then, ‘go, go, go.’ It was just going back and forth, the energy in the building and the passion with the fans, the players. I’ve seen a lot of excited players, but that bench was very excited.”

But whether it’s TNA or Russia as the opponent in the semifinal, Team Canada has just one goal.

“I like watching that team because there’s tons of skill,” said Canadian coach Mike Babcock of Team North America. “I like winning more, though. I just want to win.”

Former NHL defenseman Richie Dunn dies at age of 59

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) Former NHL defenseman Richie Dunn died Tuesday at his home in Akron, New York. He was 59.

The Buffalo Sabres confirmed Dunn’s death Wednesday, though the cause of death was not immediately known.

Dunn, from Boston, played 12 NHL seasons with Buffalo, Calgary and Hartford.

He had 36 goals and 140 assists in 483 career games from 1977 to 1989. Dunn broke into the NHL with the Sabres and eventually returned to Buffalo to spend his final four seasons. He retired after playing the 1989-90 season for the Sabres’ minor-league affiliate in Rochester.

He scored a career-best 49 points (seven goals, 42 assists) in 79 games with Buffalo in 1980-81

Dunn was voted the American Hockey League’s top defensive player in 1984-85 while playing for Hartford’s farm team in Binghamton. He was a part of Rochester’s Calder Cup-winning team in 1987.

Dream matchup? Team Canada will play either Russia or Team North America in semifinal

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 21: Jonathan Toews #16 of Team Canada (r) scores a second period goal against Team Europe and is joined by Logan Couture #39 (l) at the World Cup of Hockey tournament at the Air Canada Centre on September 21, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Team Canada will now play the waiting game. Funny, because that’s the same game Team North America is also playing.

Granted, TNA is probably far more anxious about their plight in the World Cup of Hockey. The young guns, who have astounded hockey fans with their youth, their speed, and their skill, can still advance to the semifinal round, but they need Finland to beat Russia.

A Russian win, and TNA is eliminated based on the head-to-head match-up. Faltering in the second period versus Russia could prove costly for the young squad.

Team Canada defeated Team Europe — another surprise contender in this tournament — later Wednesday evening by a final score of 4-1 to clinch top spot in the Group A standings.

Related: Team North America defeats Sweden in thrilling OT, forces Russia into must-win game

The Canadians will play either Russia or TNA in the semifinal round. Both would present a dream matchup.

The Canada-Russia rivalry is something we all know about. It goes back decades, from 1972 to 2010 and beyond. Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin has been the narrative for the past few years. It’s never boring. It’s edge-of-your-seat entertainment and angst.

Team Canada vs. Team North America would present something completely new. The storylines are easy to formulate. Stars like Crosby and Jonathan Toews and Drew Doughty that have represented and won for Canada at world junior championships and Olympics versus the emerging stars from both Canada and the U.S. like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel and Auston Matthews.

And in a one-game, winner-take-all scenario, too. The Canadians have the most depth of any team at this tournament. But both the Russians and Team North America seem capable of pulling off a stunning result in that situation.

The anticipation for either matchup would be immense.

It all depends on what happens between Russia and Finland tomorrow.

The wait will soon be over.

Team USA left searching for answers after World Cup failure

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 20: Team USA leaves the ice following a 4-2 loss to Team Canada during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at the Air Canada Centre on September 20, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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TORONTO (AP) Members of Team USA gathered for a few drinks after they were eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey.

There was a lot to discuss.

The United States was surprised by Team Europe and wasn’t good enough against Canada, leading to two losses and a cascade of questions. John Tortorella as coach? Too much grit? Not enough skill? What might change after another all-too-familiar early exit from an international tournament? The pipeline of young talent for next time around?

A few days isn’t enough time to answer all those questions, especially for players whose job was to play a certain style of hockey – not put together a roster or pick the coaching staff.

“I liked our team,” winger Zach Parise said Wednesday. “I thought we played hard. It’s not a player’s job to speculate who should or shouldn’t be on the team before or after the tournament.”

Phil Kessel took his shot. Left off the team along with scoring forwards Kyle Okposo and Tyler Johnson and defensemen Justin Faulk, Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler, the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins winger tweeted after the U.S. loss: “Just sitting around the house tonight (with) my dog. Felt like I should be doing something important, but couldn’t put my finger on it.”

Related: Team USA takes issue with Kessel’s tweet

U.S. management went with a sandpaper style of play that almost resulted in a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics but hasn’t worked since. Center David Backes said he believes that style of hockey can still win if executed correctly.

“To come here and flop like we did is extremely disappointing,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Obviously we have to examine ourselves and what more could we have done and how can we get better for future tournaments.”

The 0-2 start revealed the Americans brought too much physicality to a skill game. Canada, Russia, Team North America and others have thrived with fast-paced, entertaining hockey. Speed has been king at this international tournament, but Backes noted that the Americans “weren’t going to out-skill Canada.” With the aim of beating Canada, U.S. general manager Dean Lombardi instead built a big team with an edge in hopes of neutralizing the talent of the top hockey power in the world.

Instead, the World Cup showed that depth of talent is everything. Leaving more skilled players at home was too much to overcome.

Kessel was the Americans’ leading scorer and best player at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but he was left off the roster. Hand surgery after the playoffs may have put his availability in doubt, but USA Hockey’s management team clearly overlooked him and others.

The U.S. opted for old-guard players like forward Brandon Dubinsky, defensemen Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson and grinder Justin Abdelkader. Tortorella, as old-school a coach as there is, wanted to play his brand of hockey and stood by the roster construction and style.

Canada outclassed the U.S. in a 4-2 whacking Tuesday night that wasn’t as close as the score. Not only could the Americans not beat the tournament favorite but they weren’t able to knock them around, either.

“As a team we have some bigger guys who are physical,” Canada captain Sidney Crosby said. “It doesn’t mean they have to chase hits.”

In the aftermath of the loss, players talked about hitting the post and being close. They also defended their teammates against criticism, even while conceding the results weren’t good enough.

“There’s perhaps a gut check for everybody that’s on this team to know or to evaluate really what they were able to give or what they gave for the red white and the blue,” Backes said.

Tortorella was not made available to reporters on Wednesday. Lombardi was expected to speak Thursday before the U.S. finishes round-robin play with a meaningless game against the Czech Republic, which also failed to reach the semifinals.

Patrick Kane, who did not score a goal in two games after winning the Hart Trophy as the NHL MVP last season, wouldn’t blame his coach for this failing.

“Tortorella is just one of the most passionate guys I’ve ever seen about hockey,” Kane said. “I’ll never say a bad thing about him. He’s just a great coach. We didn’t show up for him.”

Lombardi and other executives will take heat for the World Cup debacle, though it might lead to philosophical changes about how to beat Canada and win elite tournaments. It will help at future events to have players like Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Brandon Saad and Seth Jones, all of whom played on the 23-and-under Team North America and weren’t eligible for the U.S. team.

“There is definitely a fantastic future coming here,” Tortorella said Tuesday night. “There are some good young kids there that I think they’ll bring some juice to the program.”

For now, there is the final game against the Czechs. Parise said the U.S. won’t repeat what it did in against Finland in the bronze medal game at the Sochi Olympics, essentially mailing it in.

“All of us probably really regretted what happened that game,” Parise said. “You ask yourself, `Could we have played harder with the bronze medal on the line?’ … We’ll come and play hard just like there is a spot on the line to get in.”

Report: Lupul (sports hernia) could be placed on injured reserve to begin season

Joffrey Lupul
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Joffrey Lupul last played an NHL game on Feb. 6, before being shut down for the remainder of last season with a sports hernia injury.

But with training camp set to begin Thursday, his future with the Toronto Maple Leafs isn’t exactly clear following an offseason of uncertainty as he recovered from the injury.

From TSN’s Frank Seravalli:

Lupul returned to Toronto from his off-season home on Sept. 13. Sometime during the last week, it’s believed Lupul underwent a physical examination by Maple Leaf doctors and indications are Lupul was notified he is unfit to play and will be placed on the injured reserve list to begin the season.

Lupul was asked to comment via text message Wednesday and replied he will address the media on Thursday. He has not skated with the group of Maple Leafs informally preparing for training camp daily at the MasterCard Centre.

The Maple Leafs declined comment on Wednesday. A press release from the team said its training camp roster will be released Thursday.

In 46 games last season, the 32-year-old Lupul scored 11 goals and 14 points before he was shut down.

Lupul also has two more years — and a limited no-trade clause — left on his current five-year contract, worth a total value of $26.25 million, as per General Fanager.