Jason Brough


Joe Thornton is Team Canada’s elder statesman

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TORONTO (AP) Mario Lemieux was the unofficial greybeard of Team Canada when the last World Cup of Hockey was played 12 years ago.

This time around, the role falls to 37-year-old Joe Thornton, who played alongside Lemieux in 2004 and is being counted on this time for leadership and talent that have withstood the test of time.

Thornton finished fourth in NHL scoring last season, compiling 82 points in 82 games for the San Jose Sharks. He added another 21 points in 24 playoff games, reaching his first-ever Stanley Cup Final.

“Joe Thornton, when you look at his season last year, he’s playing great hockey,” Team Canada general manager Doug Armstrong told the Canadian Press.

Armstrong says Thornton is still one of the best passers in hockey, and indeed his 63 assists last season were only topped by Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson. Thornton is the runaway leader in assists since he entered the league in 1997, 212 ahead of second-place Jaromir Jagr. Thornton also has the most points (1,341) of any player in that span, more than 100 points up on Jagr.

Canada coach Mike Babcock said Thornton’s inclusion on the roster, which came at the initial exclusion of much younger players like Logan Couture, Corey Perry, Ryan O'Reilly and Taylor Hall, was based on merit. His offensive gifts, which have already been apparent in exhibition play, were too much to ignore.

“He obviously was a guy that played well enough and played good enough and was important enough on his team,” Babcock said.

Armstrong was intrigued by how San Jose used Thornton last season, mostly on the wing alongside Joe Pavelski. A plodding skater who didn’t make the 2014 Olympic squad in Sochi, Thornton also seemed a better fit for the NHL-sized rink in Toronto where the World Cup will be played, though Armstrong said his inclusion was based on performance, not the ice surface.

Thornton, who last represented Canada at the 2010 Olympics, hadn’t given much thought to cracking the World Cup roster before getting the invitation this summer.

“It was just one of those things where you just kind of play, don’t think about it and then you get chosen,” said Thornton, still oozing energy even after more than 1,500 NHL games.

It could be the last time he wears red and white on the international stage, though he’s hinted at playing on. He’s already won Olympic (2010) and world junior gold (1997) as well as the crown at that 2004 World Cup, one of two players returning for Team Canada. Jay Bouwmeester is the other.

Thornton recalls that ’04 squad fondly. The group went undefeated (6-0-0) and included Lemieux as well as other future Hall of Famers Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur and Joe Sakic. Thornton, 25 at the time, set up two of three goals in Canada’s 3-2 win over Finland in the final. The Canadians hope he’s still got that magic.

“I’ve still got another 10 years (left),” said a grinning Thornton, “so maybe the next World Cup, I’ll play in it, too.”

Eight teams have offered Fleischmann a tryout, according to his agent


Eight teams have offered forward Thomas Fleischmann a professional tryout agreement, his agent, Rich Evans, told News 1130 Sports in Vancouver.

Evans didn’t name any of the eight teams.

Fleischmann, 32, is an unrestricted free agent who split last season between Montreal and Chicago. He only appeared in four of seven playoff games for the Blackhawks, registering no points and just three shots on goal. He was a healthy scratch for Games 5, 6, and 7 versus the Blues.

Since the start of 2013-14, Fleischmann has just 30 goals in 222 games, for four different teams. He had a career-high 27 goals for the Panthers in 2011-12.

The Blackhawks acquired Fleischmann, along with winger Dale Weise, from the Montreal Canadiens just prior to last season’s trade deadline. The cost was Phillip Danault and a second-round draft pick in 2018.

Fleischmann is no stranger to his current situation. He attended Canadiens camp on a tryout last year, eventually earning a one-year, $750,000 contract.

Related: Weise calls trade to Chicago a ‘disaster’

There’s no ‘fixed plan’ for the Flyers’ goaltending future


Flyers GM Ron Hextall will take the wait-and-see approach with his goaltending. Both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth are pending unrestricted free agents, and Hextall can’t say for sure what’s going to happen as their contracts get closer to expiration.

“Maybe we sign them both,” he said, per the Courier-Post. “I can’t predict. They’re both very good goalies. They both proved it last year. They both should be in their prime/entering their prime. We’re excited about both of them and essentially don’t have a fixed plan moving forward.”

Both goalies are 28 years old. Mason made 53 starts last season and went 23-19-10 with a .918 save percentage, while Neuvirth started 29 times and finished 18-8-4 with a .924 save percentage.

Potentially complicating Hextall’s decision is the expansion draft in June, when each team will only be allowed to protect one netminder.

The Flyers also have a couple of decent goaltending prospects in Anthony Stolarz, a second-round draft pick in 2012, and Alex Lyon, the college free agent they signed in April. Stolarz, 22, has already spent two seasons in the AHL. It’s possible, if he continues to improve, that he could be ready for the NHL next season.

“We’re just going to play this season and see how things go,” Hextall added. “That doesn’t mean at some point…I don’t want to say something because I don’t know right now.”

Related: Flyers not looking to trade Mason or Neuvirth

Parise feels ‘reassured’ after testing his back in World Cup exhibitions


Good news for the Minnesota Wild — the back injury that caused Zach Parise to sit out the playoffs is showing no signs of flaring up during the World Cup.

“I knew that I was OK, but I was still a little nervous for the first game,” Parise told the Star Tribune. “But after taking some hits and getting into some contact and not having any problem at all, it reassured me that everything is OK.”

The 32-year-old even managed to open the scoring in Team USA’s exhibition win over Team Canada Friday in Columbus, shaking off defenseman Jake Muzzin to tip home a point shot.

“I know it’s exhibition, but still mentally in my own mind, it was big to get one after what I went through,” he told the newspaper.

Parise opted to rehabilitate his back injury (a herniated disc) without surgery.

Even with the same defense, Neely expects improvement from Bruins


When the Boston Bruins began their offseason, team president Cam Neely made it a priority to upgrade the blue line.

“We know that it’s an area that we need to improve upon,” he said. “That’s probably at the top of the list.”

A month before the regular season, however, and the Bruins’ back end has not changed whatsoever, save for the deletion of Dennis Seidenberg via buyout.

So how does Neely explain it?

“Basically from April to now everybody is talking about our back end, and not being able to land a top-4 defenseman. We still have an opportunity as far as cap space goes if something shakes free, and I know [GM Don Sweeney] has been working hard trying to do something,” he said, per CSN New England. “But I feel like as a group we can do better than we did last year.

“I think Tuukka [Rask] can play better than he did last year. If that happens we should be a better club. It’s going to be a challenge and it’s going to be competitive. But I feel like the changes we’ve made through the organization, and not just in player personnel, that there’s opportunity for our group to improve.”

Granted, there’s still time for Sweeney to land a defenseman in a trade. The problem is the price. An established puck-mover like, say, Kevin Shattenkirk, will not be cheap to get. And in Shattenkirk’s case, nor will he be cheap to re-sign.

Up front, the B’s did land David Backes in free agency, but they also lost 30-goal man Loui Eriksson.

The Bruins open the regular season on Oct. 13 in Columbus.

Related: Blues might just keep Shattenkirk