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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 3:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

U.S. players feel the history in Lake Placid

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- It doesn't take long upon arriving in Lake Placid to see all the reminders of the 1980 Winter Olympics. That includes the Olympic Center and the ice sheet in what now is known as Herb Brooks Arena, which hosted the most memorable moment in North American sports history, the "Miracle on Ice" game.

"Everybody knows where you were in 1980," U.S. coach Phil Housley, who was 15 when the United States memorably beat Russia, told NHL.com. "I skipped school that day to watch that game."

The aura that hovers around that ice sheet is easy to feel for Housley as well as the players taking part in this week's USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp.

It's the first time since 2007 the camp has been held on the Olympic-size ice sheet in Herb Brooks Arena, because the tournament has been in North America the past five years. The players here this week all were born nearly 15 years after the Miracle happened, but they all know the stories.

"Every day your first steps out on the ice you think about it," defenseman Andy Welinski, an Anaheim Ducks prospect, told NHL.com. "It's something people are never going to forget. It's always in the back of your head when you step out on the rink."

Forward Steven Fogarty, a New York Rangers prospect, said he certainly appreciates his surroundings.

"When you see these signs about this is where it happened, it's really special," he told NHL.com. "To think that something so great in history happened in the same building we're skating in is so cool. … It's really special to be thinking I was skating on the same ice as those guys."

Goaltender Jon Gillies, who grew up about four hours southeast in Concord, N.H., played in a tournament in Lake Placid as a youngster, but still appreciates every chance he has to stand in the same crease legends Jim Craig and Vladislav Tretiak stood in.

"It's kind of surreal you get to experience this," he told NHL.com. "I played on this ice when I was younger and that's a memory I treasure."

Playing on a legendary surface certainly has provided an extra boost of motivation for most players.

Phoenix Coyotes prospect Connor Murphy said, "It still has that kind of feel that you go out there and you have that extra jump in your step because you know you're playing on that ice."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 2:53 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

Goalies getting extra work at development camp

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- John Gibson has started the past two games in net for the United States with Garret Sparks serving as his backup. That's left Jon Gillies and Anthony Stolarz to spend extra time with goalie coach Joe Exter.

For Stolarz, the Philadelphia Flyers' 2012 second-round pick, that could be the best thing that's happened to him.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder had a 2.84 goals-against average and .920 save percentage with Corpus Christi of the North American Hockey League last season, numbers that become even more impressive when you consider Stolarz said working with Exter is the first time he's had a real goaltending coach.

"I never really had a goalie coach," Stolarz told NHL.com. "Throughout the week, coach Exter has been working with me. I've learned more this week than the entire year I was in Corpus. He's been a very big help to me."

Exter said the raw talent Stolarz possesses is obvious.

"Anthony is coming along and learning how to use all this strengths and turn that into being a solid goaltender," Exter told NHL.com.

Gillies, a 2012 third-round pick of the Calgary Flames, came to camp a more polished prospect after spending the past two seasons with the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League.

"I think Jon is very well-grounded fundamentally as a goaltender," Exter said.

The pair has worked together in the past, and Gillies said this camp has about continuing to refine his technique.

Next is getting into a game, which could happen Saturday against Finland. Coach Phil Housley wouldn't comment on a starter, but with Saturday's game being the final one of the camp, the two goalies and forward Jimmy Vesey are the only players not to get into the past two games.

"We want to try to get everybody some work," Housley told NHL.com. "That's the main part about being here."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 2:45 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

Vesey ready to show his skills

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- One day after his team's 10-2 rout of Sweden, U.S. coach Phil Housley had a small group of players on the ice for a short practice Friday.

With a lot of ice time during the National Junior Evaluation Camp, Housley said being able to keep most of the team off the ice, giving them a full day of freedom from workouts or video, was the best plan.

"We were trying to look through our schedule and since we didn't have a lot of practice time after the first three games when we had everybody out there, certainly the way they played [Thursday], they got rewarded with a day off," Housley told NHL.com.

The team will reconvene Saturday for the final day of the camp, capped by a game against Finland. Housley said he and his staff still are undecided on the look of the lineup, but said there are a few players he would like to see more of in game situations. Among them are forward Jimmy Vesey and goalies Anthony Stolarz and Jon Gillies. They're the only three players to not get into one of the past two single-squad games, against Sweden and Finland.

Vesey, a left wing taken by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft, will play against Finland. He had 48 goals and 91 points in 45 games for the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League, but the Boston native knows playing in this week's camp is a major step up in competition.

"It's been a good experience playing against such high-end guys," he told NHL.com. "I'm coming out of a low level competing in the [EJHL]. Just to see how they [other players] prepare and how fast and strong they are out there, I think it's going to give me confidence going forward."

Housley said he's liked what he's seen from Vesey so far in practice, but is hoping there's even more when the game starts.

"I think he's got to carry his game to another level and we've talked about that," Housley said. "Certainly he's very gifted offensively. Hopefully he can bring that to the table [Saturday]. He'll get a nice opportunity to play against Finland."

Vesey said his goal entering camp was to make an impression on the USA Hockey management staff, and plans to continue doing that Saturday.

"I'm just trying to work as hard as I can in practice and show the coaches I can contribute once I get in the lineup," he said. "They expect me, if I'm going to be on the team, to contribute offense, so I'm just going to show that I have a good presence in the offensive zone and I can bury the puck."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 11:12 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

Thursday loss 'teaching moment' for Sweden coach

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Sweden coach Roger Ronnberg said Thursday's 10-2 loss to the United States was a perfect teaching moment for his team.

After what Ronnberg viewed as a solid first period, the game turned when Vincent Trocheck scored 1:31 into the second to make it 3-1. Just 21 seconds later, Alex Galchenyuk scored to make it 4-1. The U.S. team scored six times in the second, and added two goals in the third.

"We have to look at it, we have to see what happened, [and] we have to deal with it," Ronnberg told NHL.com after his team's morning skate Friday. "It happened, and on one hand we played against a really good team, but we were playing with this frustration for two periods, the second and third. We have to deal with that. We have to rely on our system even if they are leading 3-1. We have to still be consistent in our system and continue to play after our system. We didn't [Thursday], and it's a good example for us of what happens if we go away from the system. If we stick to the system, we would be harder to play against for the U.S."

Ronnberg said the loss Thursday was something his team earned. He said he hasn't been particularly happy with the way his team has played despite a 5-1 win against a U.S. split squad Monday and an 8-2 rout of Finland on Tuesday.

"It was the perfect teaching moment and something to learn from," Ronnberg said. "The worst thing as a coach is if you come away easy. Two games here, against U.S. and Finns, we have come away easy because we haven't played that good and still had easy wins on the scoreboard. I don't think the scoreboard has reflected our games. It's hard to convince the players the game isn't good enough when you win 9-2."

Ronnberg said what he's looking for from his team Friday against Finland is discipline.

"It's discipline to staying to the game plan," he said. "Discipline staying out of the [penalty] box. Those are two things that are real important."

Ronnberg said goaltender Oscar Dansk, who injured his right knee Tuesday against Finland, is questionable for Friday's game. He sat out Thursday, with top 2013 NHL Draft prospect Alexander Wennberg, a center by trade, dressing in Dansk's gear as the backup goalie.

"He has been in the net for fun a couple times and he thought it was a good thing for him," Ronnberg said. "We thought, 'Why not?'"

Despite the lopsided score, Ronnberg said he never thought about bringing Wennberg into the game.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 10:18 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

Finland back on the ice

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- After a much-needed day of rest, Finland coach Harri Lindell had his team on the ice for a short spin Friday morning, ahead of an afternoon game against Sweden.

Finland had played three games over the previous three days, losing to a split-squad U.S. team Monday, to Sweden on Tuesday and to the full-squad U.S. team Wednesday.

"We really needed that [day off] because it was a tough start to the season," Lindell told NHL.com. "Now that we have relaxed, now it's important today to have the right mental toughness again because playing three games in a row, then having a day of rest, then all of a sudden you need to battle again -- battle really hard. That's why we had a half an hour on the ice this morning, and having some one-on-ones, two-on-twos, to make sure that we are ready."

In Tuesday's 8-2 loss to Sweden, Finland played well at the start and had a 2-1 lead in the first minute of the second period. Things fell apart from there, however.

Lindell said one of the places he's looking to improve is puck control, especially in the neutral zone. And getting a power-play goal wouldn't hurt, either -- Finland is 0-for-11 in three games, and didn't have a power-play chance against Sweden.

"We need to play better on the power play, but we haven't had that many power-play chances," Lindell said. "And we really need to improve the game in the [neutral] zone. We have lost too many pucks there. Our puck control hasn't been that good. We have to focus on that."

Lindell said Richard Ullberg will start in goal Thursday. He allowed five goals on 24 shots in Monday's 5-1 loss to USA Blue. Lindell said Ullberg likely will be his top goalie for the 2013 World Junior Championship, and wants to see how he performs against Sweden, last year's tournament champion.

"We are thinking about him for the World Junior Championship," Lindell said. "These are tough games. … He didn't play against Sweden before so we need to see him."

Lindell also said Miikka Salomaki, a Nashville Predators prospect, will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury. Salomaki skated Friday morning with the team, but Lindell said it wasn't worth risking further injury by playing him now. Lindell said there's a chance Salomaki could play Saturday against the United States.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 10:09 AM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Summer with Stanley blog

After tumultuous season, Cup defense already in sight

It's amazing how much things can change in a matter of months. For Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, the 2011-12 season ended on such a high note with the franchise's first Stanley Cup win that it's easy to forget the team's tumultuous regular season.

Just under a year ago, the Kings were opening the season in Europe with one of their best players, defenseman Drew Doughty, holding out for a new contract. Eventually head coach Terry Murray was replaced with Lombardi's former coach in San Jose, Darryl Sutter. That's a lot for any team to deal with in just half a season.

"[Last season] was really hard in a lot of ways. Starting out with Drew, it was frustrating not having a top player in your camp. Then going to Europe, you're not sure how it affects your team with the travel," Lombardi told NHL.com. "Making that [coaching] change was very difficult, but fortunately I had a man like Darryl who I knew was willing to do it. What he did speaks for itself."

In all the drama surrounding the Kings' first half last season, Lombardi didn't escape unscathed, either. Leading up to the NHL trade deadline, there was some speculation that his job could be in jeopardy if he didn't make a significant addition to a team that ranked near the bottom in League scoring. But for a longtime executive mentored by Cup winners like Bill Torrey, Bob Clarke and Lou Lamoriello, that speculation didn't mean much.

"Whether it was Clarkey or Torrey or Lou Lamoriello, they would pound that into you. You can't listen to it. You're a pro, you can't let it affect your judgment. At this stage of my career, it really didn't affect me. I've been trained so well," Lombardi said. "They're very single-minded men who aren't going to be influenced by things they don't believe. Early in my career, it might have [been a distraction]. But I guess that just comes with experience."

In the end, Lombardi was able to acquire Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the deadline and the rest is hockey history. And with the entire Cup-winning roster returning for a chance to repeat, Lombardi sees an opportunity for the Kings to make even more history.

"We're very fortunate to bring everybody back," he said. "We were the fifth- or sixth-youngest team in the League. These guys have to continue to get better. I just talked to Jeff Carter last week, he sounds better than he ever has in terms of conditioning. Dustin Penner is way ahead of schedule.

"They're a great bunch of guys. The bottom line is it's about the players. The way they stuck together, I'm so proud of them."

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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 10:00 AM

By Tal Pinchevsky -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - Summer with Stanley blog

For Lombardi, day with Cup all about giving back

Los Angeles Kings general manager Dean Lombardi had the perfect icebreaker for the noticeably pro-Boston Bruins crowd that came out to celebrate the public event he hosted Thursday during his day with the Stanley Cup in his hometown of Ludlow, Mass.

"It's all about you. It's about being able to give back to so many people who did it for me. I just hope you have a great time," Lombardi said. "There's only one problem. Every Bruins jersey has to go in the back."

Lombardi would end up hosting a five-hour photo session with the Cup. For the man known by his hometown buddies as Dean-O, it was just part of giving back to the community that helped raise him.

Local hockey fans gathered to celebrate Dean Lombardi's day with the Stanley Cup in Ludlow, Massachusetts. (Photo: Tal Pinchevsky/NHL.com)

That meant starting the day by bringing the Cup to two local children's hospitals. The incredible perspective that trip provided ultimately set the tone for what would be a day dedicated to the people of Ludlow.

"There was one kid. She was in intensive care and she got up and touched [the Cup] and smiled," Lombardi told NHL.com. "I got so wired I wanted to hit somebody. Sport is about competitiveness. You see kids like that, they send us a message about being competitive. That was really neat."

From there, Lombardi was a fixture at the public event held nearby at Ludlow's Polish-American Citizens Club. Through five hours of posing for pictures and handing out hugs and handshakes, the GM made sure to spend time with the childhood friends he has known for over 40 years. They're some of his most cherished friends, a tight-knit group of one-time hockey brats whose parents, like Lombardi's, worked at the local factories and mills that once dotted Western Massachusetts.

Even decades after first lacing up the skates together, they still laugh at one another's expense, still refer to one another by nicknames like Sponge and Stevie and Eddie Looch. And when Lombardi returned to Ludlow this summer with the Stanley Cup, it was clear from the start that this was a celebration for everyone.

"He never forgot his roots," said Steve Orlik, Lombardi's longtime friend and former minor hockey teammate. "There's an electricity here right now, because it's about the people."

But when the endless crowds finally stopped filing into the public event, Lombardi and his former mates, including a group that won a national championship in 1976 with the Springfield Olympics, took time to honor two people in particular.

The first was Tony Costa, a local legend generally revered around town as the godfather of Ludlow hockey. Lombardi was just one of hundreds of young kids Costa coached in the area over decades. When kids needed a ride, he drove them to the game. When they needed equipment, he found it for them. And when Lombardi and his crew walked the Cup right up to the home of their former coach, the 92-year-old local legend was waiting ecstatically for them on his porch.

"It's hard to describe back then in the Bobby Orr era, when every kid was starting to play. He [Costa] drove the bus, collected the money, got you to the rink, coached you. Everybody knew him in this town," Lombardi said of his mentor. "[We] never forgot what he did."

After spending time with Costa, the group reconvened with the Cup to make one last visit to a friend; a valued teammate who couldn't make it to the day's festivities. That last trip was to the grave site of Gary "Zun" Ziencina, a fixture in the community who lost his battle with cancer in April 2010. Zun's concern for others always stuck with Lombardi, who has tried to impart those values on his players.

"He was the guy who taught me that happiness in life is being happy for someone else. He was so beloved in this town. He would get 10 guys together, but if somebody wasn't having a good time, he wasn't having a good time. He just loved people," Lombardi said. "In life, you say, 'If I had that car or if I just did this or met this person, my life would be complete.' Usually you're disappointed. Winning the Stanley Cup that night was [actually] better [than expected]. He totally would have loved this."

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Posted On Friday, 08.10.2012 / 9:54 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

Senators: Zibanejad staying in North America

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Mika Zibanejad got a short taste of hockey and life in North America last season, after the Ottawa Senators picked him No. 6 at the 2011 NHL Draft.

This season, he'll be on this side of the Atlantic far longer.

Ottawa Senators assistant general manager Tim Murray told NHL.com that Zibanejad will spend the 2012-13 season in North America, either in the NHL with the Senators or with the club's American Hockey League affiliate, the Binghamton Senators.

"He's staying no matter what," Murray said. "Whether its Ottawa or Binghamton, we're not sending him back. So he's here."

Zibanejad, currently here with Team Sweden for the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, started last season in Ottawa, but was returned to his Swedish team, Djurgardens, in late October.

"We wanted to keep him, that was the intent," Murray said. "Just the longer it went, you could see with him the loss of confidence. The NHL is a tough league for anybody, especially an 18-year-old kid coming from Europe for the first time. I thought he played pretty well. He had some good games. I think it was the right thing to do to send him back. Hopefully that comes through in the next couple years."

Zibanejad, who scored the overtime goal in the championship game at the 2012 World Junior Championship, remains eligible for the 2013 tournament. Murray said there's a chance the Senators could let Zibanejad play in the tournament. It's a similar situation they faced last year with goalie Robin Lehner. The Senators opted to keep Lehner in Binghamton rather than release him for Team Sweden.

"For the World Juniors, obviously then that's not a decision we have to make today," Murray said. "He's obviously on their team. … We'll just have to do what we think is right for him. Is he playing 18 minutes a night in Ottawa? Is he playing 23 minutes a night in Binghamton? Who knows? Potentially he will be back playing in this tournament, but if I had to put odds on it I wouldn't even know where to place the odds."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 08.09.2012 / 10:07 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

Gostisbehere stole the show for Team USA

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Most of the attention Thursday was focused on U.S. defensemen Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba, but it was another blueliner who stole the show in Team USA's 10-2 rout of Sweden.

Shayne Gostisbehere, a 2012 third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, scored a pair of power-play goals and had an assist. He also played solid defensively, which U.S. coach Phil Housley was quick to point out.

"His all-round game was good," Housley said. "His defense is getting better throughout the whole week. The stick is definitely good. He can skate it out of trouble. He moves the puck quite well. He's improving all week, and I think he played excellent tonight."

Gostisbehere, who had 22 points in 41 games to help Union College reach the Frozen Four last season, has had a memorable summer. Start with the NHL Draft in June, when even he was surprised to hear his name called with the 78th pick.

"I wasn't expecting third [round]," he told NHL.com. "I was expecting more fourth or fifth. It was a big surprise for me."

He also got his first experience at a professional development camp last month, and now he's still a big part of the evaluation process for USA Hockey.

"Make new friends and play well and play for your country," Gostisbehere said of his expectations for this week's National Junior Evaluation Camp. "I wasn't hoping (to just make the cut). I went through it, tried my hardest and thankfully it turned out well for me."

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, Gostisbehere isn't going to intimidate anyone in the defensive zone, but he has performed well in camp by outsmarting bigger, stronger forwards.

"It's using your stick first," he said. "Use your body as your last form of defense. Use your stick first and keep everyone in front of you and you won't have any problems."

He certainly didn't appear to have any problems against Sweden.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Thursday, 08.09.2012 / 7:46 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp blog

Lineup changes put charge in U.S. power play

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The biggest beneficiary of the lineup changes for the United States on Thursday might have been the team's power play.

Inserting defensemen Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba and Mike Reilly against Sweden paid immediate dividends when the extra-man unit scored Team USA's first two goals and went 4-for-5 in a 10-2 win.

Without those three Wednesday, the U.S. team went 0-for-3 with the extra man in a 5-2 win against Finland.

Shayne Gostisbehere, who partnered with Trouba on one unit, had a pair of power-play goals. Reilly, who was paired with Jones on a second unit, set up a pair of extra-man goals.

"With Reilly and Jones on the one unit and Trouba and Gostisbehere on the other unit, it brought a lot of offense from our defensive side of the puck," U.S. coach Phil Housley said. "They really created and were the quarterbacks. It made a big difference, especially early. We got two power-play goals early which really helps us get off to the right start."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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