James O'Brien

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 22:  Alexander Ovechkin #8 of Russia skates against USA at Ice Palace on May 22, 2016 in Moscow, Russia.  (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)
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2016 World Cup of Hockey – Saturday’s exhibition games

Want a quick rundown of Saturday’s three 2016 World Cup of Hockey exhibition games? You’re in luck.

Russia at Czech Republic (10:30 a.m. ET, on ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)

Team Russia took the first game (4-3 score) between the two on Thursday. We get another reminder of Alex Ovechkin and the rest of Russia’s formidable fleet of forwards.

With Vladimir Sobotka banged up, the Czechs might limp through this game:

Finland at Sweden (noon ET on ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)

Finland won round one between these rivals by a score of 3-2. One of the stories to follow comes in Finland’s net, as Tuukka Rask might take Pekka Rinne‘s spot this time around and may face Henrik Lundqvist on the other end.

This contest may jog your memory about Sweden’s ridiculous wealth of defense, by the way. The mass of blueliners might help:

U.S. at Canada (7 p.m. ET, on ESPN3, Sportsnet, TVA Sports)

More than just an exhibition game. Maybe more than a little unfriendly. Possibly more on this later today.

For even more on the contests, check below:

Toews, Crosby, Kane discuss that nasty U.S. – Canada exhibition

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 07: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on during warmups before playing the against the Washington Capitals in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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When given a chance to say nasty things about that nasty 4-2 loss against the U.S., Canadian players mostly refused to take the bait.

Jonathan Toews probably said the most, admitting that matches between the two countries are “not just any exhibition games” to many players.

“Without saying too much, I think there were a couple of borderline hits there where our guys were put in some awkward positions and there’s not much you can do there,” Toews said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The one on Weber was the right call there. We just have to try and protect ourselves and expect that the officials are going to do what they have to do. We have no problem with the chippiness and the physical play (but) it doesn’t matter where you’re playing, I think you always have to respect the player when he has his back to you.”

Toews’ phrasing was the key there, really, as those were the closest you could find to “explosive” comments considering the attitudes displayed on the ice.

As this TSN mash-up of comments suggests, the likes of Toews, Sidney Crosby and Carey Price were pretty guarded about handing out inflammatory bulletin board material.

Even so, Crosby did acknowledge some “late hits” while Price nodded to moments that “crossed the line.” Player seemed to appreciate that they stood up for each other, including situations where Shea Weber was the recipient and the aggressor of some “chippy” play.

U.S. players aren’t oblivious to the obvious heat between the two teams, as NHL.com reports.

“When the U.S. plays Canada, you’re going to get that type of game whether it’s an exhibition, preliminary game, semifinal or final; you’re going to find yourself in that situation in this rivalry,” Patrick Kane said.

In that case, it should be that much more interesting to watch how the two teams behave in another exhibition tonight. Perhaps the most important note is that there reportedly won’t be any additional discipline heading into the warm-up:

Without a captain, Hurricanes lead together

TORONTO,CANADA - FEBRUARY 4:  Jordan Staal #11, Jeff Skinner #53 and Eric Staal #12 of the Carolina Hurricanes skate back to the bench after a goal in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 4, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada. The Hurricanes defeated the Leafs 4-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Hurricanes don’t have a captain. They think they still have plenty of leaders.

A young team hoping to finally break through to the postseason figures to take a leadership-by-committee approach to the season with nobody yet promoted to fill the captaincy void created by Eric Staal‘s trade last season.

Clearly establishing which – and how many – players will lead an inexperienced but promising team will be a top priority once training camp begins in the coming days. Of the 44 skaters on the roster, 32 of them are 24 years old or younger.

“With Eric leaving, everybody knows how big of a hole that is in that aspect of the room,” forward Jordan Staal said Friday. “I know it’s not all going to fall on one guy’s shoulders. It’s a team sport, and there’s going to be a lot of guys ready to step up in different roles regarding leadership, including myself.”

The Hurricanes somehow played their best hockey of last season immediately after they traded Eric Staal to the New York Rangers at the trading deadline, earning points in 12 of the 14 games that followed the trade to mount a last-gasp push for their first playoff berth since 2009.

With nobody wearing the “C” that was vacated by Staal, the Hurricanes are counting on multiple voices to help make up for it. Jordan Staal and defenseman Justin Faulk both wore the “A” as alternate captains last season and they expect their teammates – even the ones who won’t wear a letter – to step up and take ownership of the team.

Some of the players who’ll lead either vocally or by example include:

– Forward Jeff Skinner. He had team-bests of 28 goals and 51 points, and though he’s just 24, the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2010 is one of the longest-tenured players on the roster.

– Defenseman Ron Hainsey. At 35, he is the oldest player on the roster – nine years older than the second-oldest defenseman, Matt Tennyson, and has skated in 835 NHL games during his 13-year career.

Cam Ward. While goalies aren’t captains, Ward is the last remaining link to both the Stanley Cup-winning team in 2006 and to Carolina’s last playoff team in 2009. The former Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP in 2006 was given a two-year, $6.6 million extension that allowed him to avoid free agency and stay with the only NHL organization he’s ever known.

“There are a lot of guys in the room that lead, and if that’s the way it is, I don’t think it changes much,” Faulk said. “Guys are still going to do their same thing, whether there is a captain or not, and that’s what we’ve kind of had the last couple of years, even with some of the older guys.

“It’s been good. … There always is more than one guy that’s doing their part to step up in different ways,” he added. “Not everyone leads the same way and it’s good to have a bunch of guys with differing opinions.”

Knee injury recovery appears touch-and-go for Coyotes’ Stone

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 12:  Michael Stone #26 of the Arizona Coyotes skates on the ice following the NHL game against the Calgary Flames at Gila River Arena on February 12, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Flames 4-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Off-season storylines tend to have their tropes, like players saying that they’re entering the season “100 percent” or (gulp) “in the best shape of their life.”

Every now and then, a little more honesty bleeds into talks of injury rehabs, and it sounds like Arizona Coyotes defenseman Michael Stone acknowledges the genuine discomfort and anxiety that comes from recovering from a knee issue.

He spoke to the Arizona Republic about refraining from skating for four months, the longest span of inactivity since his childhood.

From the sound of things, he still feels his knee during this part of the process, especially when the adrenaline wears off. Could he be ready by the regular season? The answer seems to be an optimistic maybe.

“As long as I’m doing everything fine and we don’t have any issues, then I think that’s realistic,” Stone said. “But it’s so hard to tell because I’m still not doing game situations.”

Coyotes GM John Chayka seemed to share the same positive-yet-mixed feelings about Stone’s chances to come in healthy.

You have to wonder if the 26-year-old might feel a little pressure to rush back or fight through the pain. He received a one-year contract extension for $4 million, so there’s some security, yet he’s in that middle-of-the-pack where he could either earn more term or find himself approaching a journeyman path.

That’s especially true since the Coyotes loaded up on defense during the summer and seem primed to get better and better as time goes on.

It must leave Stone feeling like he’s on shaky ground even when his knee doesn’t feel too wobbly.

Good stuff: Flames embrace Calgary Pride Parade

harveyshorts
via Calgary Flames

Need a pick-me-up? NHL teams participating in their respective cities’ pride parades have a tendency to brighten your day.

We’ve seen examples already this summer, with the Vancouver Canucks having a great time and Washington Capitals goalie Braden Holtby being involved in a parade, too.

The Calgary Flames are no strangers to be involved in their local parade, and the 2016 edition seemed like a good time.

Troy Brouwer, Chad Johnson and other Flames were involved in the festivities.

“I think it’s important for everybody to show their support,” Matt Stajan told NHL.com. “With us being pretty popular in the city of Calgary it’s important that we go out there and show our support, celebrate with the people of Calgary.”

It’s tough to top Harvey the Hound’s shorts:

Harvey’s shorts weren’t the only example of great merchandise related to the event and the Flames:

Sportsnet notes that Brian Burke wishes he could have been involved.

If the Flames’ presence wasn’t enough, there were plenty of other entertaining sightings:

Good stuff.