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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 1:09 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Wedgewood gets start for Canada vs. Czech Rep.

Canadian National Junior Team coach Don Hay announced on Wednesday that goalie Scott Wedgewood would be between the pipes for the club's second game of the 2012 World Junior Championship when his team faces Czech Republic at 8 p.m. ET.

Wedgewood, a third-round selection (No. 84) of the New Jersey Devils in 2010, is currently in his fourth season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. In 21 appearances this season, the 6-foot, 194-pound Wedgewood is 13-8-0 with a 3.08 goals-against average.

"Scott played good in the selection camp and we were impressed with what he did in the pre-competition games and that probably changed my mind a little bit in how I wanted to go about things [with rotating the goalies]," Hay told the media. "We're going to need both goalies going ahead. Mark [Visentin] played very well against the Finns and that was expected of him from his experience and summer camp and what he's done in pre-competition. I think we're in a good situation if they both continue to play like they have."

Visentin stopped 24 of 25 shots in an 8-1 victory over Finland in their tournament opener on Monday.

"We wanted both our goalies to play in a competitive game and this is going to be a very competitive game to test not only Scott but our team," Hay said. "I think we feel he's capable and ready to play and we have a lot of confidence in him."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 10:38 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

The start of something good

Ever wonder how TSN and NHL Network hockey insider Bob McKenzie got his start?

        Canadian broadcaster Bob McKenzie
Forward Mark Stone of the Canadian National Junior Team certainly does, although he wasn't even born when his father would ultimately have an indirect impact on McKenzie's rewarding broadcasting career.

Stone's father, Robert, was a sportswriter for The Sault Star (in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) before deciding to leave and give McKenzie his shot as a hockey writer.

"It was the summer of 1978 and I had gotten a summer job at the Sault Star during my second year at Ryerson [University]," McKenzie said. "It was a four-man sports department and Rob was there. I played on the Northern Plumbing slow pitch team with him."

As the story goes, McKenzie was told at the end of the summer that if a spot opened in the sports department, he would be hired.

"In January, Bob Stone departed Sault Ste. Marie for a job in Winnipeg and the paper called me in January and said Stone was leaving and there was a job in the sports department," McKenzie said. "So in April and May of 1979, I worked there."

When McKenzie broached the subject with Mark Stone, the youngster smiled and nodded his head when the inquisitive reporter asked him, "What exactly was the job your dad took in Winnipeg?"

"I really couldn't tell you," Mark said.

And what is the elder Stone doing now?

"He's selling aircraft engines," Mark Stone said.

Well, of course!

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 11:12 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Czech Republic scores 7-0 victory in WJC opener

EDMONTON - The Czech Republic received goals from six different players while Petr Mrazek needed to make just 12 saves en route to a 7-0 victory over Denmark in preliminary-round action of Group B on Tuesday during the 2012 World Junior Championship at Rexall Place.

Tomas Hertl, who was named the Czech Republic's player of the game, paced the offensive attack with a pair of goals and Radek Faksa, Petr Holik, Tomas Filippi, Dmitrij Jaskin and Jiri Riha each connected for one apiece. The Czechs held a 44-12 advantage in shots.

"I'm pleased I could score two goals and double pleased I could help the team win," Hertl told NHL.com through Czech interpreter Jan Wagner. "The strengths of our team is its speed and the camaraderie of the players."

The only previous meeting between the two teams in the U20 WJC was in 2008 -- a 5-2 win by the Czechs.

Hertl and Faksa, two players considered to be relatively high on the wish lists of many NHL scouts and general managers in June, had given the Czech a 3-0 lead through two periods.

"Hertl is still young and he's been helpful for us," Czech defenseman David Musil said. "He's used to playing on the bigger ice in the Czech. Hopefully, he can keep up his play against Canada [on Wednesday]."

The Czech Republic will play its second game of the tournament against host Canada at 8 p.m. ET (NHLN-US). The Czechs certainly do not want a repeat of last year when, after scoring a 2-0 victory over Norway in its WJC opener, the country was outscored by Canada, Sweden and Russia by a combined 21-8.

Goalie Mrazek, a fifth-round draft choice (No. 141) of the Detroit Red Wings in 2010, was barely tested but maintained his concentration throughout.

"This was a big game for us because it was the first … it was an important win," Mrazek said. "We have a lot of offensive players and good defensive players, so I think we can score some goals in this tournament."

The Czechs scored three power-play goals and one shorthanded in defeating the Danes, who have been outscored 18-3 in two games. The U.S. earned an 11-3 victory over Denmark on Monday.

Hertl scored his second of the game 2:44 into the second when he connected from an impossible angle after curling the net behind Denmark goalie Sebastian Feuk and ripping a shot from the goal line to the goalie's left. According to NHL Central Scouting, Hertl is rated No. 1 among skaters playing in the Czech Republic this season. Prior to joining the Czech National Junior Team, Hertl had 9 goals and 15 points in 23 games with HC Slavia Praha.

"I understand that to play in the U20 championship is the entry for big hockey but I still have this team on my mind right now," said Hertl, who likes to emulate Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin.

Radek Faksa extended the lead to 3-0 when he deflected home a shot from between the circles at the 11:13 mark. Faksa of the Kitchener Rangers is rated No. 4 among skaters in the Ontario Hockey League. In 27 games with the Rangers this season, Faksa has 14 goals and 27 points. Jiri Riha took the initial shot from the left point that Faksa deftly chipped home with his back to the goal cage.

The Czech Republic has outshot Denmark, 31-7, through 40 minutes. Feuk has made 29 saves.

The Czechs opened a 1-0 lead in the first when Hertl redirected a shot through the legs of Feuk from low in the left circle with his team on the power-play. Denmark is coming off an 11-3 loss to the U.S. in its tournament opener on Monday.

Jakub Culek took the initial shot from the top of the left circle. Defenseman Marek Hrbas also assisted on the goal. Feuk turned aside 15 shots, including a shorthanded breakaway attempt by Petr Straka less than four minutes into the game, to keep the Danes within striking distance.

The highlight for Denmark came with 9:49 left in the third period when defenseman Anders Thode threw a shoulder into the chest of Czech forward Tomas Hyka, who came off his feet before landing on the ice. Hyka returned to the bench on his own power.

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 5:35 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Blais spends off-day working the penalty-kill

If there's one area of concern for U.S. National Junior Team coach Dean Blais following his team's 11-3 victory over Denmark in the 2012 World Junior Championship, it would be the team's penalty-killing.

After allowing 4 goals in 16 times short during three exhibition games prior to Monday's tournament opener at Rexall Place in Edmonton, the Danes connected for three power-play goals in as many attempts.

"That's not good," Blais told NHL.com. "Thank goodness we weren't taking a lot of penalties. We've got to move a little bit better. There were opportunities to get the puck out of the zone … it started with a lost faceoff. We've been really good on faceoffs, and you lose three and three pucks end up in the net instead of forcing them 200 feet back into our end."
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.27.2011 / 1:06 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Canada's Devante Smith-Pelly fractures foot

A big opening-day win on Boxing Day before 16,647 screaming fans in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship proved a tad costly to the Canadian National Junior Team on Monday at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

The Canadians' 8-1 win over Finland was tempered when it was learned after the game that defensive-forward Devante Smith-Pelly would be lost for the remainder of the tournament with a fractured left foot. Smith-Pelly suffered his injury when he slid to the ice to block a shot from the right point by Teemu Pulkkinen.

In 26 games with the Anaheim Ducks in his rookie NHL campaign this year, Smith-Pelly had 3 goals, 5 points and 10 penalty minutes. The Ducks announced that Smith-Pelly would be sidelined 4-to-6 weeks.

Adding insult to injury is the fact Team Canada cannot replace him on its roster. The only situation that would allow a team to add another player would be in the case of a goaltender injury.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 12:27 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Visentin gets the nod in Canada's WJC opener

Canadian National Junior Team coach Don Hay on Monday declared goalie Mark Visentin his starter against Finland in the country's 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship opener at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

The Canadians, winner of the silver medal the previous two years, will open their Group B preliminary-round schedule against the Finns Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

In addition to having the most experience of the two goalies on the team, the start could give Visentin an opportunity to put to bed the final 20 minutes of last year's gold-medal loss to the Russians. Visentin is constantly reminded of his team's gold medal game collapse on Jan. 5, 2011. To some, it was considered the worst defeat in the illustrious international history of Team Canada.

And Visentin had a front row seat.
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Posted On Monday, 12.26.2011 / 6:45 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

U.S. members celebrate holiday in Western Canada

For the first time in its history of competition at the World Junior Championship, the U.S. National Junior Team will face Denmark. The game is slated for 8 p.m ET (NHLN-US) at Rexall Place in Edmonton.

The U.S. has won its last four WJC openers. Last year, Nick Bjugsted scored in overtime as the United States scored a 3-2 victory over Finland. Finland will open the tournament against Canada in what is sure to be an intriguing tussle on Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

The U.S. received a special gift from team doctor Phil Johnson's daughter, Paloma, upon their arrival at Rexall Place on Christmas Day. All the players found tiny stockings filled with cookies baked by the 10-year-old. In addition, the U.S. locker room was decorated with drawings by members of Paloma's elementary school class.

In addition, the players held a gift exchange on Christmas night. According to USA Hockey's public relations department, the most popular item "was what can best be described as a Christmas sweater," which Bjugsted apparently stole Jon Merrill at the end of the exchange. Looks like the Grinch is alive and well in Western Canada.

While most members of Team USA celebrated Christmas, team captain Jason Zucker has been celebrating Hanukkah. Zucker is the only Jewish member on the team.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.22.2011 / 12:19 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Jaden Schwartz named captain of Team Canada

St. Louis Blues prospect Jaden Schwartz on Thursday was named captain of the Canadian National Junior Team for the upcoming 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta.

Defenseman Brandon Gormley and forwards Brett Connolly, Quinton Howden and Devante Smith-Pelly were named the team's alternate captains. Schwartz, Connolly and Howden are the only three returning skaters from last year's silver medal-winning Canadian team in Buffalo, N.Y.

Goalie Mark Visentin is also a returnee.

Schwartz had a goal and 2 assists while playing key minutes alongside center Brayden Schenn and Louis Leblanc in the first two games of the WJC last year, but it ended suddenly when he suffered a broken left ankle in a 7-2 victory against the Czech Republic just two games into Team Canada's preliminary-round schedule.

"I've been waiting for this ever since that tournament ended," Schwartz told NHL.com. "I'm excited to be here. Sometimes you don't know how lucky you are, and if you get another opportunity to play for your country, you want to make the best of it and leave everything out there because you don't know how many chances you're going to get."
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 2:30 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Frk will not join Czech Republic at WJC

Martin Frk, one of the top players eligible for the 2012 Draft, will not be joining the Czech Republic at the World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta., beginning Monday.

Frk, who missed 29 games this season with a concussion, is in his second season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. According to the Halifax Herald, Frk will "head home for the holidays and not return to the Mooseheads until January."

He is ranked No. 2 among skaters in the QMJHL by NHL Central Scouting.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 1:49 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2012 World Junior Championship blog

Injured Seth Jones will be unavailable for WJC

Defenseman Seth Jones, who was battling for a roster spot on the U.S. National Junior Team this week, sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's exhibition game against Team Russia and will be unable to participate in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Jones apparently suffered his injury after taking a big hit along the boards while attempting to drive the net.

USA Hockey released a statement regarding Jones on Wednesday afternoon. U.S. coach Dean Blais is scheduled to name his official 22-man roster headed to Edmonton to compete in Group B of the tournament on Thursday morning.
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Quote of the Day

I mean, hockey had to change the rules because of Marty, and that's impressive. I got two Stanley Cup rings because of the guy. Look at the banners of [Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko] and Marty is right up there when you think about the New Jersey Devils; he was part of the core group and he'll go down as one of the greatest goalies ever.

— New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez on former teammate Martin Brodeur, who will announce his retirement Thursday