Mike Halford

Anders Lindback
AP

Devils ink journeyman goalie Lindback to training camp PTO

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The New Jersey Devils are bringing in some veteran netminding for training camp, as Anders Lindback will join the club on a professional tryout.

The move will put Lindback on his sixth team in six seasons. He spent the ’11-12 campaign with Nashville and was then acquired by Tampa Bay, where he spent the next two seasons.

After losing out on the Bolts’ starting gig to Ben Bishopremember when that was a thing? — Lindback signed in Dallas but struggled mightily, and was flipped to Buffalo at the ’14-15 trade deadline.

The 28-year-old then caught on with Arizona last season, and appeared in 19 games before suffering a freak accident — Lindback hurt his Achilles while getting up from a pregame stretch in February, and damaged the tendon so badly that it required season-ending surgery.

A veteran of 130 career contests, Lindback has good size (6-foot-6) and has always managed to find work, despite not putting up very good numbers for the last few years.

It should be noted, however, that Lindback might be nothing more than a warm body for Devils camp.

Montreal has received trade calls for Nathan Beaulieu

Nathan Beaulieu
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Say this about the Habs — they’re never boring.

Before the club even began training camp, another player’s name has surfaced in trade talks: Nathan Beaulieu, the defenseman taken 17th overall at the 2011 draft.

In an interview with RDS, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin said that he has received calls about the 23-year-old rearguard, adding “it’s my job to listen.”

That mantra, you’ll recall, is almost exactly what Bergevin said this summer when addressing P.K. Subban trade rumors.

And those, of course, ended with the blockbuster deal to Nashville for Shea Weber.

Beaulieu doesn’t have the same cache as Subban, but would still fetch a nice return on the open market. He had a pretty solid campaign last year, matching a career-high in games played (64) while establishing a career-high in points, with 19.

A quality skater, Beaulieu is also a good puck mover that can man the point on the power play, so there’s no denying that clubs would be interested in acquiring him.

And from the Montreal perspective, there have been rumblings that prized draftee Mikhail Sergachev — taken ninth overall at this year’s draft, the second d-man off the board — could make the leap to the NHL this year, which would fill the Beaulieu void.

As for what the Habs want in return? Well, the left wing position is pretty thin behind captain Max Pacioretty: Andrew Shaw, Phillip Danault and Daniel Carr round out the depth chart. A scoring LW would (presumably) be the return price.

Like we said, never a dull moment in Montreal.

Here are PHT’s World Cup of Hockey predictions

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As evident in last year’s playoffs, the PHT staff is very mediocre at predictions. So let’s see if we can keep it going!

The 2016 World Cup of Hockey begins Saturday. The eight competing squads have been split into two groups:

Group A
Team Canada
Team USA
Team Czech Republic
Team Europe

Group B
Team Finland
Team North America
Team Russia
Team Sweden

The top two teams from each group will advance to the tournament semifinals, and the semifinal winners will compete in a best-of-three finale.

So, who’s going to win?

Jason Brough: Canada

North America’s speed and skill is impressive, and Sweden has the best blue line. But I can’t pick against Team Canada. The overall talent level is just too high. The only way I see the Canadians losing is if they run into a hot goalie. That happened in their first exhibition game when Jonathan Quick shut them down, so it’s definitely possible. But that’s always possible in a short tournament — just ask the 1998 Canadian Olympic squad that ran into Dominik Hasek. Most of the time it’s the team that controls the puck that wins, and I’m fairly confident that that will be Team Canada.

Mike Halford: Finland

Look, sometimes you gotta go off the board, and that’s what I’m doing here — though to be honest, it’s not even that far off the board. The Finns always perform well at these best-on-best international events. In fact, NHLers have competed in the last five Olympic Games, and no country has medalled more. I also really like the makeup of this squad. Led by the likes of Patrik Laine, Rasmus Ristolainen, Mikael Granlund, Sami Vatanen and Aleksander Barkov, it’s younger, faster and more dynamic than previous, grinding Finnish squads. Barkov, in particular, is a superstar in the making. This tourney could be his launching pad.

Adam Gretz: Canada

Team North America is going to be the most exciting team in the tournament, but Canada still has an obscene level of talent at pretty much every position, one that nobody else can match. Canada’s roster construction is always put under a microscope, and there are always a couple of head scratching decisions — not taking P.K. Subban or Kris Letang, for example — but it never makes a difference in the end. When Joe Thornton is skating on your fourth line, “loaded” doesn’t even begin to describe your team.

Cam Tucker: North America

More than ever before, hockey is about speed, skill and youth. Team North America has an abundance of all three. Nathan MacKinnon was right to call them the most skilled team in the tournament. They should enter this event highly motivated, too — they’re not the favorites, but what this team might lack in experience is made up with a dynamic roster, one that has something to prove.

Joey Alfieri: North America

North America is the squad I was most looking forward to watching and, through a couple of pre-tournament games, they haven’t disappointed. With youth and speed on their side, they can compete with anyone in this tournament. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup with speed and skill in 2016, and Team North America is loaded with players possessing both: Connor McDavid, Mark Scheifele, Jonathan Drouin, Jack Eichel and Shayne Gostisbehere, to name a few. In goal, Matt Murray is fresh off a Stanley Cup run, and that certainly doesn’t hurt.

James O’Brien: Sweden

Chemistry and goaltending are strong pluses for Sweden, but my goodness, look at that defense. Erik Karlsson is basically on another planet and he’s joined by other standouts such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Victor Hedman. From explosive offensive ability to sound positional acumen, this group has it all. A mobile, creative, puck-moving back end is more and more important these days, and Sweden is flat-out loaded.

Russia names Bobrovsky starter for World Cup opener

Sergei Bobrovsky
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No surprise here, really — one day after Sergei Bobrovsky starred in a 3-2 OT loss to Canada, head coach Oleg Znarok said Bobrovsky would start when Russia opens the 2016 World Cup of Hockey against Sweden on Sunday.

Bobrovsky received the majority of minutes in Russia’s exhibition campaign, making 29 saves in a win over the Czechs and a whopping 45 against Canada last night.

“It was interesting,” Bobrovsky said, per NHL.com. “It’s always a big challenge when you play against Canada, they have so many great players. It’s very interesting to test yourself against them.”

Semyon Varlamov was the only other Russian goalie to see time during the exhibitions — he received all 60 minutes in a shootout loss to the Czechs, but played very well, stopping 33 of 34 shots faced.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, the No. 3 goalie on the depth chart, didn’t see any action.

Znarok did leave the door open for a potential goalie switch during the tournament, saying he would see how things go after the Sweden game. This wouldn’t be anything new for the Russians.

At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Varlamov played the first group game, Bobrovsky played the second (the epic shootout loss to the U.S.) and Varlamov returned to play the third.

Bobrovsky then retook the net for a qualification playoff win over Norway, only to cede it to Varlamov for a quarterfinal loss to Finland (Bobrovsky did replace Varlamov against the Finns).

World Cup exhibitions are over, and here’s what we learned…

NHL players pose for a photo following a televised event promoting the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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The 2016 World Cup of Hockey will get underway on Saturday, but all eight teams have already played a trio of exhibitions in advance.

From those tilts, a few key takeaways…

Canada and the U.S. don’t like each other

The two teams combined for 83 penalty minutes while splitting their opening exhibition games (though Canada did win 7-6 on aggregate. Just saying.)

Ryan Kesler was tossed from the opener for boarding Shea Weber, then got a rough ride from John Tavares and Joe Thornton in the rematch. There were plenty of big hits, face washes and post-whistle scrums, highly unusual for exhibition games but perfectly normal for what’s become a terrific grudge match.

“It’s a pretty good rivalry,” Team USA head coach John Tortorella said, per the Globe and Mail. “It kind of just lights itself up.”

Fans won’t have to wait long for the next installment. The U.S. and Canada face off again on Tuesday.

“They’re the fastest kids alive”

The biggest revelation of the exhibition campaign wasn’t the U.S.-Canada beef — that had been well established.

No, the biggest revelation was the speed and skill of Team North America, who burst onto the scene by crushing Team Europe by 4-0 and 7-4 scorelines in their opening games.

Everybody was raving about how good “TNA” was.

And that includes the players themselves.

“This team is the fastest I’ve ever seen,” said J.T. Miller.

“I don’t think there’s a more skilled team than ours,” said Nathan MacKinnon.

The 23-and-under squad was brought back to earth in the exhibition finale, however. Running up against a pair of hot netminders in Michal Neuvirth and Petr Mrazek, Team North America lost 3-2 to the Czechs and learned a valuable lesson in the process — a good offense can be neutralized.

“I think it was a real eye-opener for us for the way the tournament’s going to go,” Connor McDavid said, per Yahoo. “We’re not going to play every game 7-4 or 4-0, so it’s a good test for us.”

Speaking of McDavid, he went pointless through the three exhibition games. That’s a scary proposition for TNA opponents — the captain and arguably the team’s best player, McDavid is going to break out offensively at some point.

Some important guys got hurt

The biggest fear for all 30 NHL clubs heading into the World Cup was one (or more) of their players getting injured.

For a few unfortunate teams, it happened:

• Canada’s Tyler Seguin tried to play through an ankle injury, only to be dropped from the roster and replaced by Ryan O'Reilly. Though the decision to drop Seguin was made by Hockey Canada, one suspects the Dallas Stars — and in particular, GM Jim Nill — might’ve had a say, given Seguin missed nearly all of last year’s playoffs with an Achilles ailment.

• Sweden’s Rickard Rakell suffered an illness — believed to be in relation to a March appendectomy — that forced him out of the tournament. Rakell, who registered an assist in Sweden’s first exhibition game, was replaced by Patrik Berglund.

• Vladimir Sobotka, rumored to be re-joining the Blues in the fall, was hurt in the Czech Republic’s first exhibition against Russia. Though the Czechs kept Sobotka on the active roster, he didn’t play in the rematch against Russia or Wednesday’s win over Team North America.

• Chicago got a scare when Marian Hossa and Marcus Kruger were banged up in their first games for Team Europe and Team Sweden, respectively. Both remained with their clubs, though Kruger sat out an ugly 6-2 loss to the Europeans earlier this week.

Goaltending pictures came into focus

• Though Finland head coach Lauri Marjamaki wouldn’t confirm, it sure looks (and sounds) as though Pekka Rinne will get the nod ahead of Tuukka Rask. Rinne started the exhibition opener and closed things out as well, looking sharp along the way. Rask, meanwhile, struggled in his lone appearance, allowing five goals on 28 shots in a 6-3 loss to the Swedes on Saturday.

• Like his Finnish counterpart, Team Europe head coach Ralph Krueger wouldn’t anoint his starter — but, like Finland, Europe’s No. 1 seems obvious. Jaroslav Halak played the majority of exhibition minutes, and Krueger said “the writing was on the wall” as to who his starter would be. That would put Thomas Greiss in a backup role, after Greiss allowed four goals in just over 10 minutes in an ugly loss to Team North America.

• Based on Wednesday’s 3-2 OT loss to Canada, Russia will probably go with Sergei Bobrovsky as its starter. Bobrovsky was terrific against the Canadians, making 45 saves, and played the majority of minutes during the exhibition campaign. Semyon Varlamov got the second of a back-to-back against the Czechs, and Andrei Vasilevskiy didn’t play at all.

• Speaking of the Czechs, there’s some legitimate intrigue as to who’ll be the starter. Michal Neuvirth was fantastic throughout the exhibition campaign, especially in Wednesday’s win over North America, but Petr Mrazek has been strong as well. If we had to guess, it’ll be Neuvirth against Canada on Saturday, but assistant coach Vinny Prospal said the decision still hasn’t been made.

• Prior to the tournament, four starting spots  appeared to be locked in: Carey Price for Canada, Henrik Lundqvist for Sweden, Jonathan Quick for the U.S. and Matt Murray for North America. Those four all remain locked. It is worth mentioning, though, that Lundqvist has looked shaky and his backup, Jacob Markstrom, looked pretty good in limited minutes.

More World Cup of Hockey:

Five early observations

After talking the talk, Laine ready to walk the walk