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Leg injury sidelines Filatov in Traverse City

by Staff
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Columbus left wing Nikita Filatov was one of the most-anticipated prospects considered a must-see attraction for most scouts at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament.

Now, however, the unveiling of Filatov as a Blue Jacket will have to wait as a recurring lower-leg injury forced the Russian prospect to stay in Columbus to rest.

Columbus GM Scott Howson said Filatov, taken at No. 6 in this year's Entry Draft, will be off skates for at least a week. He's likely to miss the start of the Blue Jackets' training camp, which opens Sept. 20.

"We think at some point in the first six or seven days of camp, he'll be skating with us," Howson said. "I don't think it sets him back, but it takes away a little bit of our time to evaluate him. From what our doctors are saying, we're still going to have a good period to look at him."

If Filatov doesn't make the Jackets opening-night roster, it's likely that he'll play this season with the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. Filatov arrived in Columbus early last week after spending his summer training in Russia.

"I think what people don't realize is he hadn't even gotten his feet on the ground and he was already going to travel somewhere else (to Traverse City)," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I think people just said, 'Let's slow this thing down.' "

-- Dan Rosen

Star in the making -- There's no question 6-foot-2, 185-pound James Neal of the Dallas Stars has been one of more impressive performers here.

He tops all scorers with three goals and four points in two games, using his tremendous frame along the boards as the Stars have won their first two games in Traverse City. In addition to making an impression, however, Neal is also inspired by the fact he has been joined by his younger brother, 19-year-old Michael, at the tournament this season.

James, who had two goals in Sunday's 5-4 victory against Columbus, was selected in the second round (No. 33) of the 2005 Entry Draft. His younger brother was Dallas' fifth-round choice (No. 149) in 2007.

"I never got to play with my brother in a competitive setting so it was great to see him drafted by Dallas and have an opportunity to come to Traverse,'' said James, who turned 21 on Sept. 3. "He's a big guy, physical, and, in some ways, similar to me. I hope when he returns to juniors, he can have a great year and then maybe earn a contract and come out and go to the AHL.''

Michael, who will probably join Belleville in the OHL this winter, was grinning ear-to-ear when discussing big brother.

"I never really played with him a whole lot; it's our first time together in a Stars jersey,'' he said. "We were always teammates growing up in CYO and minor hockey as young kids. He was always two years older and we just missed having a chance to play with one another. I admire what he does because he's a hard-working player.''

--Mike G. Morreale

Don't forget Jonas -- While Alex Pietrangelo is the most talked about defensemen St. Louis has in Traverse City -- rightfully so considering he was the fourth pick in this year's Entry Draft -- Jonas Junland is someone to keep an eye on as well.

Junland, a third-round pick in 2006, is ready for his first NHL training camp and first season in North America. He was in St. Louis at this time last year, but a shoulder injury kept him off the ice. He returned to Sweden to play a full season.

"I'm here to try to make the NHL, so I hope there is an opening and I hope I'll take it," Junland said. "This training camp will be very important for me."

The Blues have only four locks for their blue-line crew with veterans Eric Brewer, Erik Johnson, Barrett Jackman and Jay McKee. However, Junland joins a large group of players fighting for the remaining jobs, including Steve Wagner, Jeff Woywitka, Roman Polak, Andy Wozniewski and Pietrangelo.

If he doesn't make it with the Blues, Junland said he'll go to Peoria to play for their American Hockey League affiliate. It says on the Traverse City roster put out by the Blues that Junland played 23 games in Peoria last year, the 6-foot-1 Swede said that was a misprint.

He did play 52 games for Linkopings HC in the Swedish Elite League and had 20 points on 3 goals and 17 assists.

"I have to do my stuff, play as good as possible and we'll see," Junland said.

-- Dan Rosen

"It's gratifying, but the main word to use there is team defense,'' Daniels said. "It's unbelievable how many shot blocks we've had on the penalty-kill and in 5-on-5 situations off a screen. It's a lot easier to play when you have guys willing to sacrifice." -- Atlanta Goaltender Ryan Daniels on the Thrashers back-to-back shutouts to begin the 2008 Traverse City Prospects Tournamnet

Goose eggs -- It doesn't get any better than two shutouts in two games.

That's what the Atlanta Thrashers defense has produced here at the prospect tournament. In fact, the Thrashers are the only team of the eight to not allow a goal. The Detroit Red Wings have yielded two, the second-lowest total. That certainly makes for an intriguing matchup Tuesday night when Atlanta and Detroit, both 2-0, face off at 7 p.m. at Centre I.C.E. Arena with the top seed in the Eastern Conference at stake.

Chris Carrozzi halted 26 shots Saturday to lead Atlanta to a 1-0 victory against Tampa Bay and Ryan Daniels turned aside 23 pucks during Sunday's 3-0 decision against the New York Rangers. The Rangers (0-2) have yet to score in two games.

"It's gratifying, but the main word to use there is team defense,'' Daniels said. "It's unbelievable how many shot blocks we've had on the penalty-kill and in 5-on-5 situations off a screen. It's a lot easier to play when you have guys willing to sacrifice. We have a pretty veteran defensive corps and I think we have a real hard-working team, so that has made life easier for myself and Chris (Carrozzi).''

--Mike G. Morreale

What language barrier? -- Rangers prospect Artem Anisimov barely speaks English, but the Russian-born center has one stock answer down cold.

"My dream is to play in the NHL," Anisimov said.

That's why Anisimov decided to come to North America last season to play with the Rangers AHL affiliate in Hartford instead of playing one more season with Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in Russia. He wound up with 43 points on 17 goals and 26 assists, and he's now considered a candidate to make the Rangers roster out of training camp.

"Training camp is a big chance for me," said Anisimov, who was drafted 54th in 2006. "It's very close now. I have to keep going with hard work."

Anisimov said he learned last season how fast the pro game is in North America. He said a full season in Hartford made him a better player. In particular, he commented on his hands, skill and playmaking ability.

"I learned that the play is faster and they hit a lot," he said. "The game is better."

-- Dan Rosen

Wild thing -- Despite not registering any points in two games for the Wild, 6-foot-4, 193-pound Colton Gillies has appeared confident while taking a regular shift here.

Gillies, the nephew of former NHL player Clark Gillies, actually sports a plus-1 rating with four penalty minutes after two games.

Taken No. 16  in the 2007 NHL Draft by the Wild, who actually traded up to take him, Gillies, 19, is one of the crown jewels in Minnesota's system.

Doug Risebrough, the president and general manager of the Wild, feels Gillies, who played last season with Saskatoon in the WHL is in a unique position.

"We have done a good job of developing players before their 20th birthday, having a history with (Nick) Schultz, (Marian) Gaborik, (Brent) Burns, (Pierre-Marc) Bouchard and (James) Sheppard, so I know he'd be better with us because I think we can develop him,'' Risebrough said. "That's certainly no slap in the face to Saskatoon, but we know what we're looking for.

"The decision I'm going to have to make is do I want to accelerate his development or do I want to send him back (to Saskatoon). Really, it's more what our roster can handle right now. I have no doubt he can play for us, but it's more of a development issue with Colton. We want him playing as much as possible.''

Gillies had 24 goals, 47 points and 97 penalty minutes in 58 games with the Blades last season.

--Mike G. Morreale

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