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Ron Wilson on World Juniors experience: ‘I learned I could still coach’

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Ron Wilson isn’t banking on a return to an NHL bench after leading the Americans to bronze at the World Juniors.

But the former head coach of the Ducks, Capitals, Sharks and Maple Leafs did enjoy his experience with USA Hockey.

“I learned I could still coach,” Wilson told the Toronto Star. “Sometimes I had my doubts there after my Toronto experience. I was getting criticized from all sides. You learn to trust yourself. That’s what I did, I trusted myself and we were rewarded.”

Wilson was as outspoken and self-assured as ever the past few weeks. He called out TSN for hyping up the tournament to the detriment of Team Canada. He called out Team Canada for taking too many penalties versus the Finns. He even quasi-bragged that he “couldn’t tell you any players on the Russian team,” right before the Russians beat his American squad in the semifinals.

Though Wilson said he’d “entertain” an offer from an NHL team, the 60-year-old said he wasn’t “expecting anything” and that the only thing he planned to do now was get back to golfing.

Related: Columnist implores Leafs fans to stop being so mean to Ron Wilson

U.S. thumps Sweden to capture bronze at World Juniors

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America is back in the medals at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

After failing to crack the top-three in consecutive years, Team USA returned on Tuesday with an 8-3 whipping of Sweden in the bronze medal game at the 2016 World Juniors.

As the scoreline suggests, it was a dominant performance. Anders Bjork (Boston), Matthew Tkachuk (’16 draft eligible) and Ryan Donato (Boston) each scored twice for the U.S., while Nick Schmaltz (Chicago) added three assists.

Christian Dvorak (Arizona) and Ryan MacInnis (Arizona) also had a pair of points each.

All told, the Americans’ disappointment in not playing for gold should be mitigated by their overall performance in this tourney.

The team suffered just two losses in Finland, and avenged one of them — a 1-0 defeat to the Swedes in the preliminary round — with a convincing effort today.

The Americans also defeated rival Canada 4-2 in the opening round, and exploded offensively on three occasions: Tuesday’s win over the Swedes, a 7-0 defeat of the Czechs in the quarterfinal and a 10-1 pounding of Switzerland in the prelims.

Report: Virtanen will report to Canucks after world junior loss with Team Canada

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Jake Virtanen is returning to the Vancouver Canucks — at least for right now — after a disappointing showing with Team Canada at the world junior hockey championship.

That’s according to a report from The Province newspaper in Vancouver on Saturday:

Virtanen will be reporting back to the Canucks, initially. Whether or not he lasts the rest of the season with the team is a huge question, and it’s one the Canucks will be discussing for the next few days.

The Canucks have set a deadline of Jan. 10 to reach a decision, which is, interestingly, the trade deadline in the WHL.

There are plenty of good reasons for Virtanen to remain a Canuck. You can probably start at the fact that when his WHL season ended last year, he was near 230 pounds, about 15 pounds more than what the Canucks would consider his playing weight should be.

Canada’s tournament came to a disappointing end with a loss to Finland in the quarter-final earlier the same day.

Virtanen had one assist in five games throughout the tournament, but he also took three penalties versus Finland, including two in the same sequence in the third period.

The Canucks selected Virtanen, a potential power forward, sixth overall in the 2014 NHL Draft.

He’s played 19 games for the Canucks as a 19-year-old rookie this season, scoring once with four points. The organization had been hoping that sending Virtanen to the world juniors would help boost his confidence, especially given he was a returning player for Canada.

 

Goalie nods: Sullivan goes back to Murray

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Rookie Matt Murray will be back in goal tonight for the reeling Pittsburgh Penguins.

The 21-year-old made his NHL debut Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Carolina.

“I thought he really settled into the game the other night and I really liked what I saw,” Pittsburgh coach Sullivan told the Penguins’ website.

Just barely out of junior, Murray wasn’t expected to be in the NHL this season. But with Marc-Andre Fleury hurt, and after Jeff Zatkoff struggled Friday versus Boston, Murray is suddenly the Penguins’ go-to.

Murray had already gained the trust of Sullivan during their time together this season with AHL Wilkes-Barre.

“He’s a very good goalie. He’s got a calm demeanor,” Sullivan told the Post-Gazette. “I think his demeanor gives confidence to his team in front of him. He’s mature beyond his years as a young player and he’s a very competitive kid.”

Another 21-year-old, Joonas Korpisalo, will be in goal for Columbus. Korpisalo made 30 saves in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout win over the Flyers.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Ducks starter in Brooklyn, but Jaroslav Halak will be in goal for the Islanders.

Jake Allen for the Blues in Philadelphia, versus Steve Mason for the Flyers.

— No word yet on a Capitals starter in Carolina, but Cam Ward will be in goal for the Hurricanes.

— Dustin Tokarski for the Canadiens in Nashville, likely versus Pekka Rinne for Nashville.

Kari Lehtonen for the Stars in Minnesota, versus Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

— Jonathan Bernier (after getting his first win of the season Saturday) for the Leafs in Colorado, versus Semyon Varlamov (the NHL’s first star of the week) for the Avalanche.

— Connor Hellebuyck for the Jets in Edmonton, versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers.

Boston could release Pastrnak for World Juniors

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Sounds like David Pastrnak could participate in his second straight World Junior Hockey Championship.

Per CSNNE, Pastrnak — Boston’s 19-year-old talent that scored scored 10 goals and 27 points in 46 games as a rookie last season — could be loaned out for this year’s tournament, like he was last December.

Pastrnak played exceptionally well for his native Czech Republic at the ’15 tourney, scoring seven points in five games.

Currently sidelined with a fractured left foot — he’s missed the last 20 games, dating back to Oct. 31 — Pastrnak’s recovery could coincide with the start of this year’s World Juniors, which is being held in Helsinki.

“The next part is the conditioning element to this, and what’s best to get him back to full speed,” Bruins GM Don Sweeney explained. “The World Juniors are a component to this, but we’re looking at all options as to what’s available between now and when we would have to make a drop-dead decision based on the holiday roster freeze.

“That will happen over the next day or so.”

Pastrnak has appeared in 10 games for Boston this year, scoring two goals and four points.