Two big questions about the World Cup format

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The NHL and NHLPA believe that an eight-team format that includes six national squads and two additional squads, Team Europe and Team North American Youngstars, will create the most competitive 2016 World Cup possible, with added intrigue.

Taking the above argument into account, and acknowledging its merits, we still have two pretty big questions.

1. Will fans embrace the uniqueness of the format, or will they be put off by it?

There’s no question that international hockey has thrived in the past on patriotism. Think the 1972 Summit Series or the 1980 Olympics. That was more than just hockey. That was billed as one way of life versus another. While those Cold War days are long gone, it’s still a big deal when the United States plays Russia, or Canada plays Russia, or the United States plays Canada, or, let’s not forget, when Sweden plays Finland.

Hockey fans are notorious traditionalists, and this is a decidedly non-traditional format. Some might even call it gimmicky. Or worse, a disingenuous attempt to cut out countries like Switzerland and Slovakia in the name of profit.

While the NHL’s plan to “include more of the very best players in the world who might otherwise have been left out of the competition” makes sense in theory, there’s the potential for those good intentions to pave a road to fan indifference. Because, if it’s not a pure best-on-best international tournament with the sole goal of proving which country is the best at the game, then does it really matter who wins?

2. Is it fair to the United States and Canada?

Sweden, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Team Europe will get to keep their best “23 and under” players. Why shouldn’t the U.S. and Canada get to keep theirs?

After all, we’ve seen young players make big impacts in major international competitions before. Drew Doughty for Canada in the 2010 Olympics leaps to mind.

It’s American hockey fans who should probably be the most concerned by this, given the U.S. doesn’t boast the depth that Canada does.

Looking forward to 2016, Brandon Saad, Alex Galchenyuk, Jacob Trouba, and Seth Jones would all figure to be strong candidates to make Team USA; however, their birthdays mean they’ll only be eligible for the North American Youngstars team. Ditto for Jack Eichel.

For the record, neither of the two country’s associations say they’re concerned.

“Our take, and I know in just speaking with Hockey Canada, we want to celebrate the players at the event,” said Jim Johannson of USA Hockey. “I think it’s going to be good for the development of our young players and theirs to play in that type of competition.”

“It doesn’t cause me any concern, to be honest with you,” added Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney. “The most important feature of this whole event is that it’s National Hockey League players playing as much as possible. The whole idea behind this is to show the very best in the world playing. The fact of the matter is that this is a unique perspective, blending a team like this, if you will, and I think that creates great excitement for the league.”

Related: Will the Youngstars even have a chance?

Rangers’ Kreider fractures foot vs. Flyers

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New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider suffered a fractured foot against the Philadelphia Flyers Friday.

The alternate captain blocked a shot from Philippe Myers with 7:40 remaining in the opening period. He played one more shift for 10 seconds before heading to the locker room. The Rangers have not provided a timeline for the injury.

New York signed Chris Kreider to a $45.5 million, seven-year extension prior to the trade deadline. The 28-year-old power forward has 24 goals and 21 assists in 63 games this season.


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Robin Lehner to make Golden Knights debut; Mark Stone injured

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The Vegas Golden Knights have been one of the league’s hottest teams over the past month and will be looking to extend their current winning streak to eight games on Friday night when they host the Buffalo Sabres.

Coach Pete DeBoer had some significant lineup news ahead of the game on Friday afternoon, including a potentially significant injury.

First, is the news that big trade deadline acquisition Robin Lehner will be making his first start in goal for the team. The Golden Knights acquired Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks just ahead of the NHL trade deadline on Monday for a draft pick and a prospect. Lehner has been one of the league’s best goalies for the past two years and alongside Marc-Andre Fleury should give them one of the league’s best goaltending duos.

The far more serious news, though, was the announcement that forward Mark Stone will not play on Friday due to a lower-body injury.

DeBoer had no immediate information on how long Stone could be out, only to say that he is still being evaluated.

When asked if it could potentially be a long-term injury DeBoer said “There’s always fear. We don’t know, but we’ll see,” via NHL.com.

Stone is one of the league’s best all-around forwards and has not only been a point-per-game player for the past three seasons, he is also one of the best defensive forwards in the league. He finished the 2018-19 season as the top runner-up for the Selke Trophy, something that has become almost unheard of for a winger.

The Golden Knights enter Friday’s game in first place in the Pacific Division, four points ahead of the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks.

Related: Blackhawks trade Robin Lehner to Golden Knights

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Oilers’ Mike Green to miss 3-4 weeks with sprained MCL

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Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland was busy at the NHL trade deadline adding Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Ennis to his roster in an effort to improve its depth. But just two games later his team has already lost one of those new players to injury.

The Oilers announced on Friday that Green, acquired from the Detroit Red Wings for Kyle Brodziak and a draft pick, will be sidelined for the next 3-4 weeks due to an MCL sprain.

That is the way things seem to be going for the Oilers right now as injuries keep adding up throughout their roster.

Green joins an injury list that already includes the team’s top defenseman (Oscar Klefbom), as well as James Neal, Kailer Yamamoto, and Kris Russell.

Green played 19 minutes in the Oilers’ 3-0 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Athanasiou was also injured in that game, but is expected to play on Saturday when the Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets.

The Oilers enter the weekend in third place in the Pacific Division with 74 points, four points back of Vegas and only two points ahead of the non-playoff teams in the Western Conference.

Related: Red Wings send Mike Green to Oilers

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Report: Islanders will play all home games at Nassau Coliseum in 2020-21

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March 22 will be the final Islanders’ game at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, according to Newsday.

Randi Marshall reports that New York governor Andrew Cuomo will announce on Saturday that the Islanders will play any home playoff games this season and all of their 2020-21 home schedule at Nassau Coliseum.

The Islanders are currently building a new arena by Belmont Park race track which is expected to be ready in time for the 2021-22 NHL season. The franchise played all of its home games at the Coliseum from 1972-2015 before moving to Brooklyn full-time in 2015. That lasted until 2018 when they split home games at both arenas, with Nassau Coliseum playing host to their Round 1 matchup against the Penguins and Barclays for their second round series against the Hurricanes.

While Barclays Center helped keep the Islanders in New York, it has not been the easiest arena to travel to for fans. The ability to get there via mass transit was a positive that the Coliseum doesn’t have. Yet when the Islanders returned back to Long Island last season, there was plenty nostalgia over the building that was home for the franchise’s glory days.

In September the Islanders broke ground on the new 19,000-seat arena by Belmont Park which is less than 10 miles from Nassau Coliseum.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.