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Canada's depth shuts down Eichel, U.S. at WJC

Wednesday, 12.31.2014 / 9:46 PM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

MONTREAL – A lot of the attention surrounding the preliminary-round game between Canada and the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship on Wednesday was the matchup between Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.

But the top two prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft were barely ever on the ice together. Instead, it was an entirely different matchup that allowed Canada to come away with a 5-3 win to claim first place in Group A.

Canada coach Benoit Groulx used the advantage of having the last change to play defensemen Darnell Nurse (Edmonton Oilers) and Shea Theodore (Anaheim Ducks) and the forward line of Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres), Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes) and Anthony Duclair (New York Rangers) against Eichel's line the entire game.

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Canada holds off United States, wins group at WJC

Wednesday, 12.31.2014 / 9:30 PM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

MONTREAL -- Max Domi not only helped the Canadian National Junior Team continue its preliminary-round mastery of the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship, but he ended his night with an entire arena chanting his name.

Domi (Arizona Coyotes), who was named Canada's player of the game, scored two goals to spark a relentless offensive attack in a 5-3 victory against its North American rival at Bell Centre on Wednesday. Canada outshot the United States 43-28.

Domi scored the first goal of the game 7:07 into the second period and the last one into an empty net with 4.7 seconds remaining before the Bell Centre crowd began chants of "Domi, Domi" in the very city where his father was public enemy No. 1 for 10-plus seasons as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Capitals view Blackhawks as model franchise

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- When the Chicago Blackhawks were ascending to the top of the NHL, they had a franchise to measure themselves against, to model their progress after.

That franchise was the Detroit Red Wings, which was the elite organization in the League for a long time. Whether it was on-ice success or a wealth of intangible measures, the Blackhawks wanted what the Red Wings had.

It wasn't really until Chicago beat Detroit in the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and won a second title that the little brother-big brother dynamic disappeared from that rivalry.

After two championships and four trips to the Western Conference Final in six seasons, the Blackhawks, along with the Los Angeles Kings, have become a franchise others measure themselves against. The Blackhawks will meet one of those teams Thursday in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park.

"I think the Blackhawks are probably the gold standard right now in the National Hockey League with success on the ice and success off the ice, having a strong following," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "To me they do everything right. The details, game presentation, facilities -- they think about the whole hockey experience for their fans, for their players, for their employees. That to me is the gold standard."


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Hardworking Holtby impresses Capitals coach Trotz

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

WASHINGTON -- Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz has tinkered with his forward lines with hopes of spreading offense around, but there has been one constant over the past several weeks: Braden Holtby.

The Capitals goaltender has started the past 13 games and will likely get the nod from Trotz again Thursday when Washington hosts the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVA).

Holtby, who is 16-8-6 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .920 save percentage, has helped the Capitals move into third place in the Metropolitan Division entering Wednesday. As for the heavy workload, Holtby says the more, the merrier.

"I feel fine," Holtby said after the Capitals practiced outdoors Wednesday. "I feel better when I play more. I feel better physically. I've always kind of hated days off in general. I've said it before: If I could play every game, I would. Whenever Coach calls my name, I'm more than happy to play."


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USA Warriors honored at Winter Classic practice

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

WASHINGTON -- When the horn sounded at the conclusion of practice at Nationals Park on Wednesday, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson raised his arms as though he was celebrating a goal, then wrapped one of them around one of the wounded soldiers who was given a chance to participate.

The USA Warriors were honored throughout the day by the Blackhawks and Washington Capitals, one day before the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, TVA). The wounded military personnel had their picture taken with the Capitals and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, then skated with the Blackhawks later in the afternoon.

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Raanta: Lucky to share this with Blackhawks family

Antti Raanta - Chicago Blackhawks

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta is preparing for his first Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. He's expected to back up starter Corey Crawford on Thursday against the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park, as he did on March 1 in Chicago's Coors Light 2014 NHL Stadium Series game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Raanta agreed to offer his opinions in blog form leading up to the main event.

WASHINGTON -- I've been thinking a lot about how we got here of late. It's been a whirlwind.

We came in last night and that's when you start feeling the excitement that the Winter Classic is close. Everybody was more and more excited about that. This morning when we woke up we knew it would be a special day.

We came to the rink a couple hours early, long before practice, just so we could get out there, see the ice, and really just soak it in. It's a phenomenal stadium and it was a great feeling to be out there. You got that feeling of excitement that you're going to be out on that ice soon.

So we came back in the locker room and we were getting ready for practice, but there was a significant buzz. It was really fun.

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Blackhawks, Capitals enter Classic at top of games

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

WASHINGTON -- Two of the hottest teams in the NHL will play out in the cold Thursday.

The Chicago Blackhawks, who are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games to seize possession of first place in the Central Division, are set to face the Washington Capitals in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park (1 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

Washington is 6-1-3 in its past 10 games and has moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division. This will be the Capitals' second Winter Classic (they played the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field in 2011).

"The message is, enjoy this experience," Washington coach Barry Trotz said after the Capitals practiced on the outdoor rink Wednesday. "Let's face it, this is pretty unique. It's something that you don't always get to do. You want to share it with your family. One of the things that I've tried to do with our group is just make sure [to] be pros about it."

The Capitals (18-11-7) have managed to find ways to collect points despite playing six of their past seven games on the road. They had a few hours to relax and were able to skate with their families after practice Wednesday, but captain Alex Ovechkin expects a return to the businesslike mentality when everyone arrives at the stadium on New Year's Day.

"It's going to be a fun time," said Ovechkin, who leads Washington with 17 goals in 36 games. "I'm pretty sure everybody is going to be excited, especially when it's going to be loud and the fans are going to be out there. Right now, it's all about fun … families, kids, wives, girlfriends, so it's always good.

"Tomorrow's going to be a new year and it's going to be a new day. It's going to be a huge two points for us. Mentally, it's going to be a very important game for us because we're going to play one of the best teams in the League. It's going to be a huge game for us. "

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2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic by the numbers

NHL Public Relations

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A look at the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic "By the Numbers."

2 - Each team is making its second appearance in the NHL Winter Classic; The Chicago Blackhawks were defeated 6-4 by Detroit in 2009 at Wrigley Field. Washington bested Pittsburgh by a 3-1 margin at Heinz Field in 2011.

2 - Beginning Jan. 1, fans can nominate their community to be one of the two communities (one in Canada, one in the U.S.) that will win the title of Kraft Hockeyville in 2015. The title will earn each community an arena makeover and the honor of hosting an NHL pre-season game in 2015.

5 - Of the six most-watched NHL regular-season games in the U.S. since 1975, five are NHL Winter Classic games.

10 - Most number of goals teams have combined to score in a single NHL Winter Classic, four of which were scored by the Blackhawks in their 6-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at the 2009 NHL Winter Classic at Wrigley Field.

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Canucks' Hansen fined for illegal check to the head

Wednesday, 12.31.2014 / 4:06 PM / Department of Player Safety News

NHL.com

NEW YORK -- Vancouver Canucks forward Jannik Hansen has been fined $5,000, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, for an illegal check to the head of San Jose Sharks forward Tommy Wingels during NHL Game No. 544 in San Jose on Tuesday, Dec. 30, the National Hockey League's Department of Player Safety announced today.

The incident occurred at 0:59 of the second period. Hansen was assessed a minor penalty for illegal check to the head.

The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.

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Capitals look to buck home-team trend at Classic

Adam Vingan - NHL.com Correspondent

WASHINGTON -- A thought crossed Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green’s mind as he prepared for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks, so he sought an answer.

“I was curious how many home teams won,” he said after the Capitals practiced at Nationals Park on Wednesday.

The visitors have won five of the previous six NHL Winter Classics, including three straight. The Capitals are among them, having defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins at Heinz Field in 2011.

A poll of Washington’s locker room produced varied responses, though the most prevalent was the presence of family and friends, making sure everyone and everything are taken care of.

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Quote of the Day

That's a really tough thing to play through; when you finally are thrown out there, the game is fast, intense, every single play matters, you've got to find a way to play through that and make smart plays. So it's a huge testament to [Vermette] and some other individuals in our locker room that are putting their own ego, their own wants and needs aside, and are ready for those opportunities when they do come.

— Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews on teammate Antoine Vermette, who returned from being a healthy scratch in Game 3 to score the double-overtime winner in Game 4