Mike Halford

Steve Ott, Justin Fontaine

Wild to healthy scratch Fontaine, who needs to ‘take a step in his career’

Justin Fontaine‘s tough season will take a difficult turn on Monday night — one that leads directly to the press box.

Per the Star-Tribune, Fontaine will be a healthy scratch for the first time this season, after a stretch in which he’s failed to score a goal in nine straight contests.

“I want to see him take a step in his career because we have a lot of confidence what he can do and what he can be as a player,” head coach Mike Yeo explained. “He’s shown signs of it from game to game. In certain games, it’s just a matter of making sure the consistency is there night after night, shift and shift.

“That’s what he has to discover in his game.”

In Fontaine’s defense, his health has been problematic.

The 28-year-old was on the receiving end of a David Clarkson knee during the preseason, which forced him to miss the first two games of the year.

Then, in late October, Fontaine was ruled out 4-6 weeks with a sprained left MCL.

Prior to that second knee injury, Fontaine had been a pretty decent contributor with a goal and four points in eight games, averaging over 11 minutes per night.

That production came on the heels of a very solid ’14-15 campaign, in which he scored a career-high 31 points.

On the season, Fontaine has a respectable eight points in 21 contests, but it’s clear his offensive abilities don’t compensate for what Wild head coach Mike Yeo see as an incomplete overall game.

B’s leading scorer Krejci out week-to-week (upper body)

Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46), of the Czech Republic, skates slowly up the ice during a break in the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Tampa, Fla. The scoreboard was showing the score from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres score.  Pittsburgh beat Buffalo, eliminating Boston from the playoffs.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
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The next few weeks will prove crucial for the Boston Bruins.

Mired in a three-game losing streak, the B’s revealed on Monday that co-leading scorer David Krejci is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury.

Though the nature of the ailment wasn’t revealed, Krejci was seen wearing a slight on his right arm following today’s practice.

The injury means it’s unlikely the 29-year-old will be able to participate in Friday’s Winter Classic against Montreal at Gillette Stadium. Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher are both currently sidelined as well; while Gallagher has hinted at a potential return in time for Jan. 1, Price is almost assuredly out.

But back to Krejci for a moment.

On pace for the best offensive campaign of his 10-year career, Krejci will be nearly impossible to replace. In addition to his offensive production, he also gobbles up ice time (over 20 minutes a night this year, for the first time in his career) and is one of the club’s busiest faceoff men, trailing only Patrice Bergeron.

At Monday’s practice, head coach Claude Julien unveiled what could be the solution in the wake of Krejci’s injury. Bergeron skated between Brad Marchand and Brett Connolly, while Ryan Spooner manned the 2C spot between Matt Beleskey and Loui Eriksson.

With Spooner moving up, Landon Ferraro — claimed off waivers from Detroit earlier this month — played on the third line with Frank Vatrano and Jimmy Hayes.

If there’s a silver lining in all this, it’s that Boston has a relatively mellow schedule coming up. The B’s are off tonight, back in action on Tuesday (against Ottawa), then off ’til Friday for the Winter Classic.

After that, they’re off for four days — returning to action on Jan. 5 versus Washington — before setting off on a tough five-game road swing on Jan.

Sweden beats U.S. to stay perfect at World Juniors

TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 05: Goaltender Linus Soderstrom #30 of Sweden deflects the puck on a shot from Slovakia during the Bronze medal game of the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship on January 05, 2015 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
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HELSINKI (AP) Linus Soderstrom made 46 saves, Alexander Nylander scored and Sweden shut out the United States 1-0 on Monday at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Nylander scored on a second-period breakaway. He has a goal and four assists in the tournament to lead Sweden, which is 2-0 in Group A.

The United States, which fell to 1-1 after beating Canada in its opener, couldn’t score despite having eight power-play chances in the game.

It was the first time the U.S. lost to Sweden in the world juniors since 1996, ending a 12-game winning streak.

Nylander plays in the Ontario Hockey League and is expected to be selected in the 2016 NHL draft. Soderstrom was a fourth-round pick of the New York Islanders in the 2014 draft.

In other games on Monday, the Czech Republic blanked Slovakia 2-0.

The U.S. will face Switzerland on Wednesday, and Denmark on Thursday.

Gaudreau, Niemi, Bozak named NHL’s three stars of the week

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Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau, Dallas’ Antti Niemi and Toronto’s Tyler Bozak have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 27, the league announced on Monday.

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Gaudreau led the NHL with five goals in two games to help the Flames (17-16-2, 36 points) set a franchise record with their 11th consecutive victory on home ice.

Niemi went 2-0-1 with a 1.02 goals-against average, .966 save percentage and one shutout to lift the Stars (27-7-3, 57 points) back into first place in the League standings.

Bozak ranked second in the NHL in both goals (4) and points (tied-5) to power the Maple Leafs (13-14-7, 33 points) to two victories in three starts.

Expect to see Gaudreau’s in December’s three stars as well. He scored two hat-tricks this month — including one against the Jets on the 22nd — and, for December, has 12 goals and 18 points in just 11 games, with two more to go.

Calgary plays at home against Anaheim on Tuesday, then another home date against the Kings on New Year’s Eve.

After 11-game absence, Fisher back for Preds

Mike Fisher
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Nashville will bolster its center depth tonight when it hosts the Rangers at Bridgestone.

Mike Fisher, who’s been out of the lineup since Dec. 1 with a lower-body injury, will play for the first time in 11 games, per NHL.com.

Fisher looks as though he’ll slot back in on a line with Colin Wilson and Viktor Arvidssonhe skated between the two at Sunday’s practice — and said he’s “feeling great” after getting shaken up on a Martin Hanzal hit earlier this month.

Getting the 35-year-old back will be a boon for the Preds.

Fisher, who at the time of his injury said tied for third on the team with five goals, is a pretty key cog in Nashville’s operation. He plays nearly 19 minutes a night, leads the team in faceoff wins and has pretty solid possession metrics.

He’s also one of head coach Peter Laviolette’s more trusted veterans, and serves as one of the club’s three alternate captains.

Laviolette will no doubt be pleased to get Fisher back. Nashville has struggled in his absence, going 4-5-2 since he got hurt against the Coyotes.