The defending gold medalists from Finland lost a shocker to Denmark

For the defending gold medalists from Finland, the possibility of relegation is suddenly real.

It is still unlikely, mind you. But a shock 3-2 loss to Denmark in yesterday’s World Juniors action made Finland winless after two games, stuck at the bottom of Group A.

And if that’s where they stay, at the bottom of Group A, they’ll have to face the bottom of Group B — Latvia or Slovakia, probably — in a best-of-three to avoid relegation.

“We should beat Denmark or we should at least score more than two goals with those shots or something,” said Finland captain Olli Juolevi, per Postmedia. “There’s no excuses.”

No excuses maybe. But without Jesse Puljujarvi, Patrik Laine, and Sebastian Aho, there are three good reasons why the Finns seem nowhere near as dangerous as the team that romped to gold in Helsinki a year ago. Denmark goalie Kasper Krog stopped 34 Finnish shots for the win. The Danes, meanwhile, managed just 10 shots total, but three beat Veini Vehvilainen.

The Finns take on Sweden Thursday and Switzerland Saturday. They lost their first game of the preliminary round, 2-1, to the Czech Republic on Monday.


Dumoulin to miss 4-6 weeks after surgery for broken jaw


Already without key defensemen Kris Letang and Trevor Daley, the Pittsburgh Penguins have lost another big part of their blue line. The team announced today that Brian Dumoulin will miss 4-to-6 weeks after undergoing surgery for a broken jaw.

“Dumoulin was injured in the third period of Pittsburgh’s 5-2 win in New Jersey on Tuesday night when an errant shot hit his jaw,” the Penguins said in a release. The 25-year-old has been placed on long-term injured reserve.

Oh, and just to add to the uncertainty, Olli Maatta missed last night’s game with the flu. No word if he’ll be able to play tonight at home against Carolina.

The good news? Letang and Daley are getting closer to making their returns. They each (along with forward Tom Kuhnhackl) took part in the morning skate yesterday in New Jersey, per the Tribune-Review.

“The fact that they’re on the ice and joining the team is a significant jump as far as their progress is concerned,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “There is a strong possibility that some will get into games here before our next break, but I think at this point, it’s going to be one of those day-to-day things. This is obviously a big step getting them into the first practice.”

The Pens host Carolina tonight, Montreal Saturday, and then get a week off before Tampa Bay visits Jan. 8.


The goals are starting to come for Andrew Ladd

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NEW YORK (AP) Andrew Ladd is hoping a couple of goals Tuesday night can get him and the New York Islanders rolling headed into the second half of the season.

“When pucks start going in, your confidence is a lot higher,” Ladd said after he and Anders Lee scored 43 seconds apart early in the third period to lift the New York Islanders over the Washington Capitals 4-3 on Tuesday night.

Ladd had two goals and Cal Clutterbuck added another for New York, which improved to 14-14-6 overall and 11-7-4 at home. Jaroslav Halak stopped 31 of 34 shots for the Islanders.

“You’re probably looking to shoot more than you are when things aren’t going your way,” said Ladd, who has seven goals in his first season with New York. “I’ve been around long enough to know that when things start to go your way, you’ve got to ride that as long as you can.”

While the Islanders are talking about building from the ground up, the Capitals left New York as an irritated group.

Despite getting goals from Justin Williams, Alex Ovechkin and Andre Burakovsky, Washington fell to 20-9-4 with its third loss in four games. Braden Holtby stopped 27 shots.

New York never trailed in the third meeting this month between the longtime rivals.

Still it took a 1-2 combination from Ladd and Lee to put New York in position to win its third straight game.

Ladd broke a 2-2 tie 4:41 into the third by shoveling Alan Quine‘s pass into the net. Signed to a seven-year, $38.5 million free agent contract on July 1, Ladd scored two goals in a game for the first time as an Islander.

“Once you’re a scorer, you’re a scorer,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “They’re (going to) come. Even last year, it came in bunches for him after Christmas. He works hard. If you continue to work hard, good things are (going to) happen.”

Lee followed with a breakaway score at 5:24 for a two-goal lead. Lee snapped a wrist shot that beat Holtby cleanly.

“A move that’s beaten me a few times this year,” Holtby said. “I can deal with different goals here and there, but when it’s a pattern like that and I haven’t fixed it, that’s frustrating.”

Burakovsky cut the deficit to 4-3 with his fourth goal with 6:55 left. After Burakovsky’s score, New York killed two minor penalties to close up shop. The Islanders killed all four Washington power plays for the game.

Ovechkin opened the third period by scoring on a backhander at 1:17 to tie it at 2.

Ladd’s sixth goal gave the Islanders their second lead of the game, 2-1, at the 14:03 mark of the second. Stationed at the far post, Ladd was able to tap in Thomas Hickey‘s shot from the left side.

New York took a 1-0 lead 8:02 into the game on Clutterbuck’s third of the season, his first since Nov. 7, and the 99th of his NHL career.

“You think it’s going hard, it goes soft and handcuffs you,” Holtby said. “I didn’t really know where it was.”

Williams tied it 5:22 later by poking a rebound of Ovechkin’s shot past Halak. After the goal, Halak appeared to complain that he had been interfered with by Williams.

Williams was called for goaltender interference midway through the second period after colliding with Halak behind the New York net.

NOTES: Holtby entered with a career record of 12-2-3 with a 2.18 goals against average and .928 save percentage in 17 games against the Islanders. … New York scratched G Thomas Griess and RW Stephen Gionta. … Islanders C Casey Cizikas missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury. … Washington scratched D Taylor Chorney, LW Zachary Sanford and LW Daniel Winnik. … The Islanders and Capitals will end their regular season series Jan. 31 in New York.


Capitals: Host New Jersey on Thursday night in the first half of a home-and-home.

Islanders: Begin a four-game trip Thursday night at Minnesota.

Pre-game reading: Analyzing the Minnesota Wild ahead of the expansion draft


— Up top, the “Road to the NHL Outdoor Classics” looks at the St. Louis Blues, who will host the Blackhawks Jan. 2 at Busch Stadium. The Blues have never won the Stanley Cup, but they’re again one of the contenders this season.

— Pierre LeBrun takes a look at the Minnesota Wild ahead of the expansion draft. It will certainly be interesting to see if GM Chuck Fletcher moves one of his defenseman before Vegas gets its chance to pick. Don’t be surprised if the Edmonton Oilers, who’d still like to improve their back end, come calling on a guy like Matt Dumba. The Wild have to protect Ryan Suter, who has a no-movement clause, and they’ll likely choose to protect Jared Spurgeon. That may only leave them with one additional d-man to put a wall around. (ESPN)

— Speaking of Vegas, here’s Golden Knights GM George McPhee on the challenge of preparing for the expansion draft: “Things change. There is going to be a redistribution of players a few weeks before the deadline and there will be some trades as well so we have to know everyone in an organization. … You have to walk away with a good understanding of who those players are and what they can do on the ice because it’s going to matter in six months.” (NHL.com)

— Which coaches are on the hot seat coming out of the Christmas break? Yahoo Sports has come up with a list, and it starts with Dan Bylsma in Buffalo. We wrote about the Sabres today, and how they’ve failed to live up to their own expectations. Injuries have hurt them, but more and more people are wondering if Bylsma is the right man for the job. (Yahoo Sports)

Zack Kassian doesn’t drink anymore, and that more than anything has helped save his career. “When (Oilers GM) Peter Chiarelli made the move to pick me up, I knew it was going to be a long haul to get back to the NHL and to earn Peter’s trust back and to earn everyone’s trust back. I knew it was nothing but uphill. I just took it a day at a time. If you look at it now, a year later, I think things are slowly trying to turn around. Peter, I think, has gained a little more trust in me. And I think that’s all I could really ask for.” (Edmonton Sun)

— The Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur, on the pressure the Canadians have to shoulder every year at the World Juniors: “This is Canada’s tournament, but let’s be clear what we mean when we say that. Nobody loves the world junior hockey championships like we do. It has become tradition. The young men lucky or unlucky enough to play know the pressure, know the glory, know the crushing disappointment. They, like so many of us, have watched it all happen on TV.” (Toronto Star)

Enjoy the games!

Canucks lose Hansen for 4-6 weeks with knee injury

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Jannik Hansen will be sidelined 4-6 weeks with a knee injury that was suffered on a controversial play Thursday against Winnipeg.

It was in the second period when the Vancouver winger was kneed by Jets forward Mathieu Perreault. The Canucks felt the play deserved an additional look from the league, but Perreault escaped with a two-minute minor for kneeing.

Hansen was just six games into his return from a previous injury that had cost him 16 games. His new injury is just the latest blow for the Canucks, who have also been without their two top defensemen, Chris Tanev and Alex Edler, for extended periods this season.

Tanev is back, but Edler is still recovering from a broken finger. There is no timetable for his return, though he has been practicing with teammates.

It will be interesting to see how Hansen’s injury may affect the roster. Anton Rodin has been given the first chance to fill in. But if Rodin can’t produce, the Canucks could potentially look at recalling Jake Virtanen from the AHL.

Vancouver entered the Christmas break on a down note, getting badly outplayed in Calgary while losing 4-1 to the Flames on Friday. The Canucks were outshot, 37-14, and didn’t look anything like a team that might challenge for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

The Canucks host the Kings Wednesday. Vancouver is currently seven points back of Calgary for the second wild-card spot in the West.