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Players live with risk of major injury at Canadian junior hockey team's camp

NHL.com @NHL

SASKATOON - Those invited to Canada's junior hockey team summer camp are expected to play full out despite the risk of a devastating injury.

Wins and losses mean nothing and there's no championship on the line in intrasquad games. But going half speed means coaches and head scout Al Murray can't determine if a player is worthy of wearing a Canadian jersey.

Rimouski Oceanic forward Jordan Caron, a first-round pick of the Boston Bruins this year, suffered a broken collarbone in the first intrasquad game of camp Saturday.

He was reaching for a pass from Zach Kassian. Regina Pats defenceman Colten Teubert caught Caron at the blue-line and dealt Caron a thunderous, but clean, check that sent him flying.

A broken collarbone takes between six-and-eight weeks to heal, which is a tight timeline for Caron to heal in time to participate in his first NHL training camp.

Caron was recovering at the team's hotel Sunday and not available to comment prior to the team's final intrasquad game of the five-day camp.

"We saw him this morning. He didn't look too great," defenceman Ryan Ellis said Sunday. "He was in a lot of pain."

While an injury at this camp can throw a wrench into a player's career trajectory, Brampton Battalion forward Matt Duchene says the benefits of participating outweigh the risks.

Duchene was the third overall pick in this year's NHL entry draft by Colorado. While he felt sorry for Caron, he sees the risk as the cost of doing business.

"He, like me, and many other guys here are trying to make an NHL team in the fall and this camp is really going to help us get ready for that," Duchene explained. "Obviously this camp's got a lot of top-end talent. It's the best guys off the best teams in Canada.

"It's been a long time since a lot of us have played games and we're getting the opportunity to get back into game shape and play against some awesome competition. When we go back to our junior camps and then our NHL camps, this will really help us get prepared for that."

Players went at it in a scrimmage Sunday, with Team Red defeating Team White 5-3. Shawn Lalonde of the Belleville Bulls paced Red with two goals.

The game wasn't a timid affair with seven penalties called, though there were no majors.

Summer camp isn't designed to be a casual get-together of the country's best players under the age of 20.

Murray recalled the summer camp of 2005 when current Calgary Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf had his glove in the face of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby for three straight scrimmages.

Colin Fraser, who was Phaneuf's Red Deer Rebels teammate at the time, had enough of that and fought Phaneuf.

"Under (coach) Brent (Sutter), that camp was over the top as far as physical play," Murray said.

The 41 players invited to this year's camp were split into two teams. There was little mixing of the two squads, even at meal times, in order to generate combativeness for games.

Murray said last year's camp in Ottawa wasn't competitive enough and steps were taken build tension.

"Everything in practices those first two days was geared towards preparing them to actually play in a game, to compete and show the coaches what they could do and who could do things the way the coaches wanted," he said.

If players are going half speed, they're in danger of getting injured from someone else going full speed, according to head coach Willie Desjardins.

"The risk of injury is higher if they're not prepared to play hard because one guy who is trying to make our team will go hard at you and that's when you get hurt," he said.

Also, Murray can't get an accurate read on a player if his talents and abilities aren't fully tested.

"If you're going to play real hockey, there's always the danger that somebody is going to get banged up and you hope it doesn't happen, but it's always present in the summer, especially when they're not in mid-season form," Murray admitted.

The Red team had scored first in the intrasquad game, but after Teubert's dramatic check, his White team rattled off four unanswered goals.

"Playing the body is my game, so that's what I have to do out there," Teubert said. "That's how I have to play or else I probably wouldn't be playing for this team, right?

"It was really unfortunate for him to get hurt like that. I hope he has a swift recovery."

The players' performances at summer camp will factor into whether they receive an invitation to December's selection camp in Regina.

Murray will continue to scout them and players who weren't invited to camp until then. He'll summon about 34 candidates to try out for the team that will attempt to win a sixth straight gold medal for Canada at the 2010 world junior championship in Regina and Saskatoon.

Desjardins, who coaches the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers, will selected his 22-player roster with input from assistants Dave Cameron of the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors, Steve Spott of the Kitchener Rangers and Andre Tourigny of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

Canada begins defence of its title Dec. 26 versus Latvia in Saskatoon.

Desjardins says this camp is an important tool in helping him decide who he wants on his team.

"When it comes down to their name being called to come to the December camp, this is the only time I've been on the ice with them," Desjardins said. "As a coach, I want to have a feel for that players and know I can count on that player.

"If it's that fine of a line, this camp will make a difference. Every coach wants to know he can count on that player when it gets tough."

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