Mike Halford

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Galchenyuk to start as No. 1 center in Montreal

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When the Habs took Alex Galchenyuk third overall at the 2012 draft, they hoped they were getting their top-line center of the future.

And now, the plan has come together.

Per the Gazette, Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said he will open this season with Galchenyuk as his No. 1 center, on a line with Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher.

That would bump veteran Tomas Plekanec down to the No. 2 spot, next to Alex Radulov and Andrew Shaw.

“I’m always ready for a challenge,” Galchenyuk said. “I expect a lot of big things from me. I always put a lot of expectations on myself.”

One of the biggest omissions from Team North America’s World Cup squad, Galchenyuk vaulted himself into No. 1 duties with a great ’15-16 campaign, in which he scored 30 goals — 16 of them coming in the final 22 games of the year.

The goal production was nice, no doubt.

But Galchenyuk will need upticks in other categories to thrive in his new role.

The 22-year-old won just 47.9 percent of his draws last year, though it was by far his most extensive work in the faceoff circle (749 taken, compared to just 167 the year prior). He also only averaged 16:16 TOI per game, and one expects a significant bump there as well.

Buffalo center Ryan O'Reilly averaged 21:44 per game last year. Other top centers in the Eastern Conference like Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and John Tavares were all hovering around 20-21.

With all that said, Galchenyuk will certainly be one to watch as the season opens. Last year, Plekanec enjoyed tremendous early success with Pacioretty and Gallagher — trio was one of the NHL’s best lines to start the year.

Gibson replaces Murray (thumb) in goal for Team North America

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Team North America continued to struggle with injuries on Wednesday, as starting netminder Matt Murray was ruled out of today’s game against Team Sweden with a thumb ailment.

John Gibson, who came on in relief of Murray in Monday’s 4-3 loss to the Russians, will get the start in goal.

Murray is just the latest TNA member to go down in this tourney.

Yesterday, star defenseman Aaron Ekblad was ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup with an upper-body injury (believed to be a concussion). Meanwhile, fellow North American blueliner Ryan Murray is uncertain for Wednesday’s tilt, as he’s banged up and took a maintenance day on Tuesday.

Given that one Murray has already been ruled out and the other is in danger of not being able to play, North America could be in tough.

It would leave them with just five active defensemen against Sweden and their backup goalie in net, though Gibson did look good against the Russians, stopping all six shots faced.

In other news ahead of today’s game, Jets prospect Connor Hellebuyck will dress for the first time this tournament, and serve as Gibson’s backup.

 

 

Here’s what’s at stake in today’s World Cup games

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The Czechs and Americans have all been eliminated from the 2016 World Cup while the Canadians and Europeans have advanced to the semifinal round.

That means there are still spots up for grabs — between Team North America, Sweden, Finland and Russia — and a whole lot of jockeying for seeding.

With that said, here’s a look ahead at Wednesday’s action:

Team North America vs. Team Sweden (3 p.m. ET)

The Swedes are in the driver’s seat for Group B, thanks to earlier wins over Russia and Finland. All they need from today’s game is a single point, and they’ve clinched their semifinal berth.

For the North Americans, things are slightly more difficult. They’re tied on two points with the Russians, but Russia holds the tiebreaker because of its head-to-head win (Monday’s 4-3 victory).

So:

— If TNA wins (in any fashion), Russia’s game on Thursday versus Finland is a must-win.

— If TNA loses (in any fashion), Russia would only need one point on Thursday against the Finns to advance.

Things will get really interesting if TNA beats Sweden today and Russia beats Finland tomorrow. That would give TNA, Sweden and Russia all 2-1 records. In the event of a three-way tie, the tiebreakers are as follows:

Step 1: Total Points (2 points for any win, 1 point for any OT/SO loss)
Step 2: ROW (total regulation/OT wins, not including shootout wins)
Step 3: Regulation Wins (total regulation wins only)
Step 4: Goal Differential (total goals for minus total goals against)
Step 5: Total Goals Scored (total goals for)

Steps 6-7 will be calculated based upon games played between tied teams only:

Step 6: Goal Differential (total goals for minus total goals against)
Step 7: Total Goals Scored (total goals for)

Based on that, North America would clinch a semifinal berth with a regulation win over the Swedes today.

Other clinching scenarios, per NHL PR:

Team Europe vs. Team Canada (8 p.m. ET)

As Mike Babcock would say, “it’s real simple” — whoever wins today finishes atop the group, and whoever loses finishes second. It’s probably nice to finish first, but there isn’t much in the way of a competitive advantage, as there’s no home ice to play for.

What’s more, neither side will know who they face in the semifinal until tomorrow, due to the crossover format with Group B.

So it’s safe to suggest there could be a lack of intensity.

Canada’s already announced starting netminder Carey Price will get tonight off, with Corey Crawford getting the start. The rest of the lineup has yet to be announced.

It’s still unclear what European coach Ralph Krueger intends to do — Jaroslav Halak could probably use a break, having faced 65 shots through two games — and there’s a chance Luca Sbisa and Mikkel Boedker, who have yet to dress in the tournament, could get a game.

Bergenheim to join Booth at Ducks camp on PTO

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Last year, Ducks GM Bob Murray loaded up on veterans like Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart and Mike Santorelli to upgrade his forward group.

This year, he’s doing something similar — albeit in a different fashion.

After news broke that 31-year-old winger David Booth would attend training camp on a PTO, the O.C. Register reports that another veteran forward — 32-year-old Sean Bergenheim — will be there as well.

A three-time 15-goal scorer, Bergenheim spent last season with Bern of the Swiss League. His last NHL action came in ’14-15, when he scored nine goals and 19 points in 56 games for the Panthers and Wild.

It’s a bit surprising Murray is going this route again, especially since none of last year’s acquisitions paid off, and the Ducks actually looked a little old and a little slow at times.

In addition to the Bergenheim and Booth PTOs, Anaheim has also signed journeyman winger Mason Raymond, veteran center Antoine Vermette and noted tough guy Jared Boll.

Of course, the PTOs could simply be a way to get warm bodies into camp. Anaheim has several players still participating in the World Cup of Hockey, including Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Hampus Lindholm, John Gibson and Jakob Silfverberg.

 

Traverse City title another feather in cap for Carolina prospects

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We’ve written quite a bit on PHT about all the good, young talent GM Ron Francis has stockpiled in Carolina — see here, here and here.

And now, right here.

The ‘Canes captured Detroit’s Traverse City prospects tourney on Tuesday night, beating the host Red Wings 6-4 to capture the Matthew Wuest Memorial Cup for the first time since 2009.

“It’s a really good group of guys,” head coach Ulf Samuelsson said, per the ‘Canes website. “A lot of talent. It was a high-scoring team. A lot of fun to be a part of.”

Julien Gauthier and Jake Bean — Carolina’s two first-round picks at June’s draft — combined to score three goals in the second period, with Gauthier finishing with two markers on the night.

The win capped off a highly successful week. The ‘Canes ran the table at the event, beating the Rangers, Wild and Stars prior to toppling the Wings.

Bean and Gauthier starred in the final, but Carolina had other quality talent going in this tourney as well. Haydn Fleury, the seventh overall pick in 2014, manned the blueline while Alex Nedeljkovic, the prized goaltending prospect that started for the U.S. at the World Juniors, held things down in goal.

Other Carolina prospects featured in Traverse City included Roland McKeown, Nicolas Roy and Sergey Tolchinsky.

Related: With Peters re-signed, ‘Canes ready to snap playoff drought