We’re a week into the 2008 IIHF World Championships, and the preliminary round is behind us. Qualifying round play begins today in Quebec City and Halifax, and the medal round gets underway on Wed. May 14. Here’s what’s been happening around the Worlds.
Top of the Worlds, Ma –
Canada and Switzerland were the only two of the 16 teams in the tournament to escape the preliminary rounds with an unblemished record. Both Canada and Switzerland had three regulation wins to come out of the preliminaries with a perfect score of nine points.
Canada had a goals differential of plus-12 (17-5) while Switzerland’s was plus-6 (10-4). Finland and Russia each finished on top of their respective groups with eight points, the result of two regulation wins and one overtime victory.
Switzerland closed out the preliminaries with an impressive 4-2 upset victory over Team Sweden on Wednesday.
Tough Blow –
Ex-Caps captain Jeff Halpern
suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and he will miss the remainder of the World Championships. Now a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 32-year-old Halpern will be examined by Caps team physician Dr. Ben Shaffer, who performed surgery on Halpern’s left knee in 2002.
Halpern is likely to miss the first couple months of the 2008-09 NHL season.Skating Sami –
Caps defenseman Sami Lepisto saw his first action of the 2008 Worlds on Wednesday in Team Finland’s final preliminary round contest, a 3-2 victory over Slovakia.
Lepisto logged 13:54 in ice time and appeared to gain the confidence of the coaching staff as the game wore on. He logged 6:10 of that duty in the game’s third period. Finland took the unusual step of dressing eight defensemen for the game with Slovakia, and Lepisto’s ice time total was third highest among the octet of Finnish blueliners.
Relegation Blues –
Caps goaltender Cristobal Huet stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced but Team France fell 3-1 to Team Belarus on Wednesday in the final game of the preliminary round for both teams. The French team will now head to the relegation round, where it will attempt to avoid relegation beginning on Friday when it faces Italy.Shark Blood –
In the wake of the San Jose Sharks’ elimination from the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, a quartet of Sharks will be heading to eastern Canada to join their respective countries.
Most notably, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov will be joining Team Russia, which has already lost two of its registered goaltenders to injury. Also, San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray will skate for Team Sweden, and forward Marcel Goc and goaltender Dmitri Patzold will play for Team Germany.
More Additions –
Several other NHL players will join their country’s teams in time to participate in qualifying round play.
Colorado’s Jaroslav Hlinka, the Rangers’ Michal Rozsival and Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec have all joined the Czech Republic team.
Besides adding Murray, the Swedes will also benefit from the arrival of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. Holland Out –
Team Germany defenseman Jason Holland was ruled ineligible for World Championship play when it was discovered that he had not yet played the requisite four consecutive years in the national competitions of his new country. There was some talk of Germany being forced to forfeit its 4-2 upset win over Team Slovakia, but apparently that won’t be the case.Wallin Suspended –
Carolina Hurricanes and Team Sweden Niclas Wallin was handed a two-game suspension on Wednesday. The tournament directorate voted to suspend Wallin for his hit to the head and neck area of Switzerland’s Roman Wick.
Here’s a quick check on the progress of the Capitals playing in the tournament:Alex Ovechkin (Russia) –
He has two goals and is plus-2 in three games while averaging 17:06 in ice time. Alexander Semin (Russia) –
Was named best Russian player for the game in his team’s 7-1 win over Italy. Semin had two goals and an assist and was a plus-4 in that game. Overall, Semin has two goals, four points and is plus-4 while skating an average of 18:05.
Sergei Fedorov (Russia) –
Has a goal and two assists and is plus-3 while averaging 17:16. Fedorov was named Team Russia’s top performer in its win over Denmark.
Simeon Varlamov (Russia) –
Injured in practice and sidelined for the tournament.
Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) –
Has three goals and an assist and is plus-2 in Sweden’s three games. He has averaged 18:13.Mike Green (Canada) –
Has a goal and is plus-3 while averaging 13:55 in three games.Cristobal Huet (France) –
Was named best Team France player in his team’s 4-1 loss to Switzerland. Stopped 44 of the 48 shots he faced in that game. Gave up two goals on five shots in a 9-0 loss to Sweden on Monday and three goals on 29 shots in a 3-1 loss to Belarus on Wednesday. For the tournament, Huet is 0-2 with a 4.15 goals against average and an .890 save pct.
Tomas Fleischmann (Czech Republic) –
Has three assists and is plus-4 while averaging 13:12 in three games.Jakub Klepis (Czech Republic) –
Has an assist and is plus-1 while averaging 10:47 in three games.
Sami Lepisto (Finland) –
Is even while playing 13:54 in his lone game to date.