<span class="vcard">Jason Brough</span>

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five

Canucks coach Desjardins has hip surgery, will miss training camp

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Not your traditional injury update:

Canucks coach Willie Desjardins has undergone successful hip surgery, the club announced today. The 58-year-old bench boss is expected to return to regular coaching duties by opening night (Oct. 7 in Calgary).

“Willie has been dealing with the chronic discomfort for a long time and our medical staff has been monitoring it since he joined us last year. Unfortunately his hip deteriorated rapidly in recent weeks and it required immediate attention,” said GM Jim Benning. “Willie’s expected to recover quickly and will be connected every day until he’s ready to be back in person.”

Obviously, not the best timing. Vancouver’s prospects have a tournament in Penticton, British Columbia, this weekend. Training camp is scheduled for the following weekend in Prince George. Desjardins will not be able to attend either.

The Canucks say that training camp and “some pre-season duties” will be shared by assistant coaches Doug Lidster, Glen Gulutzan and Perry Pearn.

Though the Canucks’ roster is mostly set, the club still needs to decide whether young Jake Virtanen deserves a spot in the lineup. Certainly, the Canucks would love the big winger to prove he does; otherwise, it’ll be back to junior for another year.

World Cup groups and schedule released

Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr
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The young Americans and Canadians comprising “Team North America” may never get the chance to upset their elders.

That’s because Team North America, the 23-or-under team that will participate in the 2016 World Cup, has been placed in Group B with Finland, Russia, and Sweden, while Group A will be made up of the United States, Canada, the Czech Republic, and Team Europe (comprised of Europeans born outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia and Sweden.)

The tournament format calls for three group games, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the semifinals. That means the young stars would have to beat out two of Finland, Russia, and Sweden in order to advance.

Of note, all Team North America players must have a date of birth on or after Oct. 2, 1992. Since those players will be available for selection exclusively by Team North America, each player on Team Canada and Team USA must be born on Oct. 1, 1992 or earlier.

Team North America will be selected by Peter Chiarelli (Oilers GM) and Stan Bowman (Blackhawks GM).

Here’s the full World Cup schedule (all times Eastern):

Preliminary Round (round robin)

Saturday, Sept. 17
Team Europe vs. Team USA, 3:30 p.m.
Team Canada vs. Team Czech Republic, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 18
Team Russia vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
Team Finland vs. Team North America, 8 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 19
Team Czech Republic vs. Team Europe, 3 p.m.
Team North America vs. Team Russia, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 20
Team Finland vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
Team Canada vs. Team USA, 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 21
Team North America vs. Team Sweden, 3 p.m.
Team Canada vs. Team Europe, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 22
Team Finland vs. Team Russia, 3 p.m.
Team Czech Republic vs. Team USA, 8 p.m.

Semifinals (single elimination; A1 vs. B2, B1 vs. A2)

Saturday, Sept. 24
Semifinal 1, TBD

Sunday, Sept. 25
Semifinal 2, TBD

Final (best-of-three)

Tuesday, Sept. 27
Final Game 1, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 29
Final Game 2, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 1
Final Game 3, 7 p.m. (if necessary)

All games will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Each team will have a roster of 23 players: 20 skaters and three goalies.

Related: Unique World Cup format allows ‘more of the very best players’ to participate

Report: Lightning ‘would prefer’ Stamkos to play wing

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Four

From Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, reporting on the contract talks between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steven Stamkos:

Stamkos prefers to play center, which creates a top-six logjam with Valtteri Filppula and triplet Tyler Johnson. It sounds like the Lightning would prefer Stamkos to play on the wing to ease that issue. From what I’ve been told, the discussions were professional, but both organization and player remain searching for common ground.

This same issue came up during last year’s playoffs, when Stamkos was shifted to the wing “to free him up a little bit, and let him get out of the zone a little faster,” according to coach Jon Cooper.

The center position is generally considered a tougher position to play, given the additional responsibility in the defensive zone. Partly for that reason, it’s wingers that tend to make up the majority of the NHL’s goal-scoring leaders. Alex Ovechkin. Rick Nash. Phil Kessel. Vladimir Tarasenko. Max Pacioretty. Corey Perry. Jarome Iginla. All wingers.

While nobody’s saying that this is an issue that will keep Stamkos from re-signing with the Lightning, it’s one to keep in mind as the offseason comes to an end.

Related: Stamkos extension ‘No. 1 priority’ this offseason, says Yzerman

Malkin: Kessel ‘can score 50 goals’ with Crosby

Olympic men's Hockey semi-final

In Toronto, Phil Kessel‘s center was Tyler Bozak.

In Pittsburgh, Kessel is expected to start on a line with Sidney Crosby.

Think expectations are high for the newly acquired sniper?

“I think if he plays with Sid he can score 50 goals, at least,” said Pittsburgh’s other star center, Evgeni Malkin, per the National Post. “He’s got everything: the shot, the speed, he’s special.”

Over the last five years, Crosby’s most common wingers at even strength have been Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis. Last year, he spent most of his time with Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist.

Chemistry is a tough thing to predict, but in theory, both Crosby and Kessel have the burst to create scoring chances off the rush. If Crosby can get Kessel the puck in the right places, and do that often, in the words of Jonathan Toews, “we’re all in trouble.”

Related: “It’s hard to find players like Phil Kessel”

Flames not counting on last year’s magic to continue

Johnny Gaudreau

To all those people who said the Calgary Flames were just lucky last season, their general manager, Brad Treliving, has a message:

“Our season last year was like winning the Masters, while sinking eighteen 40-foot putts.”

So yeah, he kind of agrees. The Flames had some good fortune on their side.

That being said, while Treliving doesn’t believe the Flames can duplicate all the come-from-behind victories they managed in 2014-15, they’re not necessarily doomed to be the next version of the Colorado Avalanche.

Personnel-wise, Calgary added Dougie Hamilton, without losing a roster player. That’s a significant addition to a blue line that was already a strength of the team.

But it’s the Flames’ recognition that they have to play better hockey that really differentiates them from previous lucky-then-not-so-lucky teams like the Avs.

“We can’t just say the recipe for this season is ‘we’re going to win a bunch of games by coming from behind in the third period. We’re going to pull the goaltender eight times and score a tying goal in seven of them,'” Treliving told Sportsnet.

“We have to get better.”

Which is to say, last year may have been a magical one for Calgary hockey fans, but the Flames know that magic has a way of running out. In the long run, it’s good hockey that wins.

Related: Treliving realistic about Flames’ success