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Running Back to Saskatoon blog

by Adam Kimelman
Tournament's best players
01.05.2010 / 10:49 PM ET

Switzerland's Benjamin Conz named best goalie, Canada's Alex Pietrangelo named best defenseman, Canada's Jordan Eberle named best forward. All good picks

What an ending
01.05.2010 / 10:45 PM ET

Up and down action, and John Carlson wins it with his second of the night. Just a fabulous game. Congrats to the U.S. I'll have more after the players get their medal and meet with the media.

Overtime coming up
01.05.2010 / 10:29 PM ET

It's 20 minutes of sudden death overtime, and then the shootout. The WJC shootout works a bit different if it gets that far. It's still best-of-three, but teams can use the same shooter over and over if they like. One year Canada used Jonathan Toews as the only shooter in the shootout and he scored three staight times.

A few friends on Facebook asked me to describe the mood here, and sorry, but words really can't do this justice. I thought last year's Canada-Russia semifinal game was great, but this blows it out of the water by a mile. I think people will be talking about this game like they do the 1972 Summit Series. Jordan Eberle could be the new Paul Henderson if Canada wins.

Back in a bit with the start of extra time!

01.05.2010 / 10:15 PM ET

What can you say about Jordan Eberle? Between last year's tourney and this year's, the kid might not ever have to pay for a meal again in his life

What a turn!
01.05.2010 / 9:57 PM ET

D'Amigo and Derek Stepan score 2:11 apart and the U.S. has stunned the sell-out crowd here in Saskatoon. Awful play by Jake Allen on that dump-in and Stepan went right around him to score. Under 13 minutes left. But U.S. fans shouldn't get too crazy. U.S. was by two with 10 minutes to play and Jack Campbell in goal on New Year's Eve, and Canada won that one in a shootout.

Allen just got yanked for Martin Jones. Probably the right move.

D'Amigo does it again
01.05.2010 / 9:52 PM ET

Jerry D'Amigo another huge goal for the U.S. Starts a give-and-go with Derek Stepan and finishes it 4:12 into the period to put U.S. up 4-3. Beside the score, Canadian fans should also know D'Amigo is a Maple Leafs prospect.

That was close
01.05.2010 / 9:48 PM ET

Brandon Kozun dings the crossbar less than 90 seconds in. That leads to U.S. penalty on Philip McRae for shooting the puck over the glass.

Jack Campbell makes as great stop on Nazem Kadri from in close, and then sprawls to make a sensational save on Jordan Eberle from the doorstep.

Two periods down
01.05.2010 / 9:30 PM ET

Well, that's been fun so far. Lots of great physical play, wide-open game. You keep waiting for the pace to slow down and it really hasn't. U.S. is outshooting Canada 25-19, but things have looked pretty even from my vantage point.

The only disappointment was not being able to get in on the 50/50 tonight -- last check it was over $230,000. The lines were about 70-people long all over the building, so I guess someone else is going to have to get lucky there.

Back with more in the third period.

Take out the whistle
01.05.2010 / 9:18 PM ET

I think hockey referees have the hardest job in sports. They're in the middle of non-stop action. It's like running back and forth through four lanes of highway traffic for three straight hours. But the gentlement calling tonight's game have missed some really bad hits from behind and high hits from both sides. I understand it's a physical game and you want to let the boys play, but Hockey Canada and the IIHF -- and I'm sure USA Hockey would go along with this -- wanted a crackdown on hits to the head and hits from behind. There have been a few nasty ones of each variety from both teams and outside of the one on Pietrangelo, nothing has been called. The last thing you want is another Travis Hamonic-type injury to ruin what's been a tremenous game so far.

Change in goal
01.05.2010 / 9:06 PM ET

U.S. coach Dean Blais just pulled Mike Lee for Jack Campbell after Taylor Hall's goal. Not sure I agree with that one. Looked like Hall's goal was put in by a U.S. player. But three goals allowed on seven shots isn't a good sign.

U.S. back ahead
01.05.2010 / 9:00 PM ET

John Carlson low shot from just inside the blue line, middle of the ice, beats Allen clean 63 seconds into the period. Maybe went through a Canada player out high, but that's a save he's got to make.

Nothing but action
01.05.2010 / 8:41 PM ET

Just an amazing first period. Canada huge jump early, get the first goal, and then the U.S. gets a pair of quick ones to go ahead. Then Canada answers on a great give-and-go with Greg Nemisz getting his first goal from Nazem Kadri.

Not sure why people are screaming about the call on Alex Pietrangelo. Obvious hit from behind and absolutely the right call. If the U.S. player is a foot closer to the boards, he'd have the same injury as Travis Hamonic, or worst.

More in a bit from the second period.

Off and running
01.05.2010 / 8:16 PM ET

Canada coming out wiht a lot of jump. Jordan Caron backed down Matt Donovan and centered the puck to Luke Adam, who was skating right up the middle of the ice with Tyler Johnson left in his wake. Adam got the puck, deked to open up Mike Lee's pads and slid a backhand between them 2:40 into the game. 1-0 Canada.

Players are on the ice
01.05.2010 / 8:08 PM ET

Lots of happy, flag-waving Canadians. The giant Canadian flag that debuted so memorably last year in Ottawa just made its way around the crowd. Most of the crowd is standing, chanting "Go Canada Go." It's pretty electric and for the first time all week, the building actually feels warm. Which is nice because for most of the time it's been about 10 degrees in here -- and minus-15 outside.

Happy Swedes
01.05.2010 / 7:47 PM ET

All the talk with the Swedes was that some medal was better than no medal. Well, mission accomplished.

"We expected gold but we got bronze," said Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson. "We won the last game and we're just going to have to take that."

One of the questions after the game was whether Swiss coach Jakob Kolliker considered pulling goalie Benjamin Conz, who allowed 11 goals on 50 shots. Conz played all but 1:25 for the Swiss in the tournament and it looked like he ran out of gas in this one.

But Kolliker said that thought never entered his mind, saying it was a learning experience.

"We left him in (because) every shot he takes is a big positive for him," said Kolliker. "He has to improve. He's the only goalie we have in Switzerland at this level. He allowed a lot of goals (but) he has to be ready for every shot."

We're about 15 minutes away from the big one tonight. Flip on NHL Network, and you can follow along right here.

All-Star ballot
01.05.2010 / 6:02 PM ET

Tournament all-star ballots have to be in by the end of the second period of the gold-medal game, but I can't imagine anything else that happens the rest of the way changing my feelings, so here's who I got:

Goalie: Benjamin Conz, Switzerland; Defense: John Carlson, U.S., Alex Pietrangelo, Canada; Forward: Jordan Eberle, Canada, Nino Niederreiter, Switzerland, Taylor Hall, Canada. My MVP is Eberle.

Defense was pretty hard to pick, because so many of the Canada players' stats are skewed by the blowout games they had. But Pietrangelo is a plus-8 with 11 points and has played on Canada's top pairing. And Carlson is tied for the tournament lead at plus-9, and has 5 points.

Two periods in the books
01.05.2010 / 5:37 PM ET

For a split second it looked like maybe, somehow, someway Switzerland could crawl back into the game. Certainly Sweden goalie Jacob Markstrom is making it fairly easy for them. But Andre Petersson scored late in the second for the hat trick, and at 10-4 with 20 minutes to play, well, it's more than over.

Great shot by Nino Niederreiter to make it 9-4. He rifled that one past Markstrom, and he's certainly made a nice name for himself in the eyes of the scouts. If they haven't journey to Portland yet, I'm sure they'll be making plans to head there.

Back with more in the third.

Out of hand
01.05.2010 / 5:27 PM ET

I understand Switzerland is playing without its top two defenseman, and two others from their top four are dinged up. But do they have to completely leave their goaltender all alone as Sweden forwards get multiple whacks at pucks in front?

It's 9-1 before  Switzerland gets a pair thanks to Jacob Markstrom. He's allowed three goals on 11 shots, and has not looked good. Two of their goals were right over his glove, and the third went into an open net after he gave it away behind his net.

The onslaught continuees
01.05.2010 / 5:10 PM ET

Sweden scores twice more n a 29-second span less than 4 minutes into the period.

Switzerland finally answers after Oliver Ekman-Larson was given a 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind. On the ensuing power play, a Sweden turnover in its own end let Michael Loichat skate into one and rifle a slap shot over Jacob Markstrom's glove.

Shots on goal with just over 12 minutes left in the second is 27-9 Sweden.

End of one
01.05.2010 / 4:44 PM ET

Sweden five goals, Switzerland five shots. Goalie Benjamin Conz left out to dry as Sweden closed the period with goals 14 seconds apart. Andre Petersson makes a nice move to open up Conz and score his second at 18:50, and then Mattias Tedenby rips a Daniel Brodin shot past Conz at 19:04.

I was hoping the Swiss coach would have pulled Conz then and let the kid get the ovation he deserves. I haven't filled out my tournament all-star ballot yet, but Conz gets my vote as best goalie. The numbers won't look good, but when you see as much rubber as he as, to have his team this deep into the tournament says a lot.

Back with more in the second period.

Make it 3-0
01.05.2010 / 4:33 PM ET

Sweden scores on its first power play. Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson makes a great dot-to-dot pass in the Swiss end, and Andre Petersson ripped a one-timer past Conz at 14:32. With just over four minutes left, Sweden has three goals, Switzerland has four shots.

Doubled up
01.05.2010 / 4:27 PM ET

Anton Lander, the Oilers prospect, just made it 2-0 with his team-best fifth goal. Anton Rodin's shot from the slot was stopped, but Lander banged in the rebound at 11:44. Shots are 13-3 Sweden with just over 7 minutes left here in the first. This one could get ugly.

Sweden goes ahead
01.05.2010 / 4:22 PM ET

Dennis Rasmussen makes a nice play along the wall to pull out a puck, walks into the slot, shoots, and grabs his own rebound to score 3:59 into the game. Swiss really have trouble generating any offense. They have just two shots through the first half of the period.

In and out
01.05.2010 / 4:05 PM ET

Two of the roughest plays of the tournament were semifinal hits thrown by Switzerland forward Jeffrey Fuglister and Sweden's Marcus Johansson.

Fuglister's hit on Canada defenseman Travis Hamonic in the final minute of their game resulted in Hamonic crashing into the boards and suffering a separated shoulder that will keep him out 6-8 weeks.

Johansson's elbow to the head of U.S. forward Jerry D'Amigo in the opening minute of the third period of their game knocked D'Amigo down but not out, and he was back after missing one shift.

Fuglister will play for Switzerland today, while Johansson is suspended for the game. Coach Per Marts took the captain's C from Johansson and gave it to Anton Lander for the game. Lander had been an assistant captain; today David Rundblad and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson are wearing the A's.

Almost ready to roll
01.05.2010 / 3:05 PM ET

We're about an hour out from the first game of the day, the bronze medal clash between Sweden and Switzerland. My favorite quote came from Nino Niederreiter, the Swiss forward, when he was asked how they would play against Sweden goalie Jacob Markstrom.

"It looked like he had a problem between the legs (against the U.S.), so maybe we'll take it there." Ouch. Although the way Markstrom looked for most of the U.S. game, it might not be a bad idea.

Speaking of goalies, the U.S. will go with Mike Lee tonight against Canada. No surprise there. U.S. coach Dean Blais had said after the Finland game that Lee would be his starter the rest of the way, and while he played coy yesterday, it was pretty obvious which way he was leaning. Coaches like familiar, and it's been documented how much Blais likes Lee.

I'm rooting for two good games tonight. And for the 50/50. It was almost $200,000 for the New Year's Eve game. If it doesn't go pass the $200K mark tonight, I'd be stunned. I'll be buying in -- a dollar and a dream!

You can catch the bronze medal game today at 4 p.m. ET on the NHL Network in the U.S., and the gold-medal game at 8 p.m., also on NHL Network. And you can follow along right here on

Back with more in a bit!

Russian intrigue
01.05.2010 / 12:20 AM ET

Russia gave up a late goal to fall to Finland, 4-3, in the fifth-place game. But the real story was the fact that Nikita Filatov had his captaincy taken away from him for the last game and his playing time was limited.

Filatov didn't really want to talk about what happened and why, but when I asked him if there was anything positive he can take from this World Juniors experience, he paused and said, "Didn't get injured." Ouch.

Filatov also talked about how much he liked being home in Russia, but said he expects to be back in Columbus next season. Filatov said he had dinner with Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson last night and said Howson also hopes to see him next season back with the Blue Jackets.

Relegation station
01.04.2010 / 7:55 PM ET

All through the day of availability for the medal-contending teams there were games being played in the relegation round.

The Czech Republic beat Slovakia, 5-2, to claim seventh place. Jan Kovar had a hat trick plus an assist to pace the Czechs, and Thomas Kubalik had a goal and an assist. Tomas Tatar and Richard Panik, Slovakia's top two players, combined for just five shots in the loss.

In the day's second game, Latvia beat Austria, 6-4, to claim ninth place. Latvia scored three times in a 1:28 span of the first period to snap a 1-1 tie. Austria got a pair of goals in the second period, but Latvia iced the game with a pair of power-play goals in the third.

Next up is the fifth-place game between Russia and Finland.

What's a bronze worth?

01.04.2010 / 7:45 PM ET

Depends who you're asking. For Sweden, it's not quite worthless, but not at all what they want. For Switzerland, it's about as rich as it gets.

So you can say Sweden and Switzerland are approaching tomorrow's bronze-medal game (4 p.m., NHLN-US) from two completely different perspectives.

Sweden coach Per Marts is hoping his players can find the motivation to take home some medal rather than nothing. For goalie Jacob Markstrom, he's focused on winning his final junior game.

The Swiss, however, feel they're playing with no pressure. No one expected them to get this far, anyway.

"In 12 ,13 years it's never happened," said Swiss coach Jakob Kolliker. "Had bronze once, in '98. That's a big thing for Swiss hockey. Gives a push and a light on the horizon for our hockey."

One player to keep an eye on is Sweden defenseman Adam Larsson. He's the youngest player on the Swedish team, but he plays a big role. He's already playing in the Swedish Elite League. He's not eligible until the 2011 Entry Draft, but you'll hear his name mentioned prominently among the best players available in two years. NHL scouts already are drooling.

Who said what?

01.04.2010 / 5:55 PM ET

Nazem Kadri is a good kid who made a real bad decision when he made a throat-slashing gesture in Canada's preliminary round game against Sweden. Nino Niederreiter also is a good kid who looks like he'll be a high pick at the 2010 Entry Draft. But something happened between them last night in the Canada-Switzerland semifinal that definitely wasn't nice.

The problems between them started in the teams' first meeting, when the pair exchanged hacks and whacks, and apparently carried over to the semifinal game. Kadri accused Niederreiter of saying something offensive, and then refused to shake Niederreiter's hand in the post-game handshake line.

Kadri wouldn't divulge what was said, but did confirm it had nothing to do with his ethnicity or his religion -- he's a Muslim of Lebanese decent.

"It was kind of typical," Kadri said. "I'm not going to repeat what was said. What happens on the ice stays on the ice. That's between the players. Come to think of it now, I don't take any offense to it. It happened. I'm not going to worry about it now."

Niederreiter said he didn't think he said anything offensive, that it was just the usual trash talk that goes on in every other game. "I have no idea what he's taking about," he said. "Just trash talk on the ice."

But he was adamant that anything he did say had nothing to do with Kadri's background. Niederreriter said he had no idea Kadri was Muslim. "He's a Canadian guy, plays for Canada, so to me he's just a Canadian guy," he said.

Kadri refused to shake Niederreiter's hand in the post-game handshake line, and in hindsight Kadri admitted that was a mistake on his part.

"It was a little unsportsmanlike (what he said,) but at that time I really didn't feel comfortable shaking his hand and I didn't," said Kadri. "What happened, happened."

Niederreiter said he thought Kadri's handskate snub was poor sportsmanship, which offended him.

"When the game is over the game is over," he said. "I think it's bad that you don't shake hands and say good game."

Whatever really happened, whatever was said, it's put two good kids in a bit of a bad light.

Who's the favorite?

01.04.2010 / 5:10 PM ET

There's a saying -- "To be the man, you have to beat the man" -- and at the World Junior Championship, Canada is the man. So it was quite odd to hear Canada captain Patrice Cormier pronounce the U.S. as the favorite to beat the five-time defending gold-medal winners.

"They outplayed us the last game and they are the favorite going into this game, I think," said Cormier. "We have to prove we can play with them."

It's hard to see a five-time champion the underdog against a team with five medals total, so I more agree with Ryan Bourque, who was more than a little surprised when I told him what Cormier said.

"I'd say we're the underdogs," Bourque told me. "Not sure how you can say Canada is the underdog when they've won five straight gold medals."

I agree with Bourque, Canada certainly is the favorite, especially with what should be a very, very loud Credit Union Centre crowd behind them. The folks up here seem to get off on cheering for anyone against the U.S., but the American players don't mind wearing the black hats. They're pretty used to it by now.

"I love this atmosphere," said U.S. forward Jerry D'Amigo -- a Maple Leafs draft pick, by the way -- "It gives you a little motivation."

The only issue left unresolved is who the U.S. would use in goal. Mike Lee has started the last two games, and Blais said a few days ago that Lee would be his guy the rest of the way. Today, though, he played coy and said he would let us know tomorrow. Jack Campbell played well against Canada New Year's Eve, but it would be a bit of a shock if Lee wasn't in net tomorrow.

There was a lot going on here today, including the three relegation games, as well some kind of nasty incident invovling Nazem Kadri. More on that in a bit.

Burke, Wilson have eyes on WJC

01.04.2010 / 4:33 PM ET

Team USA coach Ron Wilson and general manager Brian Burke will be front and center when the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship matches Team USA against rival Canada on Tuesday in Saskatoon, Sask.

"Our primary opponent and most successful opponent is Canada, so those are the games that are special," Burke said. "So I expect nothing but the best (Tuesday) night. USA Hockey has given us more high-level players than ever before and our rivalry with Canada is big again. That shootout loss to Canada (on New Year's Eve) was so exciting.

"There was a time when the Canadian team would absolutely steamroll the American team in the World Juniors but now the games are exciting and close. I feel the buzz and they booed the hell out of me when I was on the scoreboard (Sunday night) -- I don't know why. But, that's great, that's the way it should be."

Wilson echoed Burke's sentiments.

"Obviously this is an exciting time for us. I want to wish the Junior National Team the best of luck. They've made us proud in the tournament and I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a great result."

--Mike G. Morreale

Talking World Juniors
01.04.2010 / 2:15 PM ET

Adam Kimelman was on NHL Live this afternoon. You can check out his observations during the conversation with hosts Deb Placey and EJ Hradek here.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Canada and U.S. for the gold
01.04.2010 / 12:55 PM ET

We're still enjoying two memorable semifinal games from last night while waiting for the players to arrive for their availability here at the Credit Union Centre.

Some things that resonanted from last night's games:

* It'll be good to see Canada get tested again to see just how good this team really is. They breezed through their first three games in the preliminary round, then got a bit of a break when Switzerland knocked off Russia in the quarterfinals. The only game Canada really has had to work was against the U.S.

"I think it was a good game for us," said Taylor Hall. "They're a strong team. They really came out and beat us at our own game for 2 1/2 periods and really woke us up.  It was a realy good game for us to get into it. Gives us a good feeling for the finals."

* It's still tough to fathom how the U.S. can be so good at five-on-five play and so bad on the power play. The numbers show they're 8-for-28 with the man-advantage, good for third in the tournament, but it really let them down against Sweden. Teams that don't capitialize on five-minute power plays generally don't have long lives in tournaments. That they didn't give up shows this team's character.

"(The team) wasn't down," said Ryan Bourque. "That's tough having a five-minute power play and not scoring. But we knew we were going to bounce back and we have enough faith in our guys that we were going to bounce back."

The Canada players are about ready to make an appearance. For now, check for a feature on Hall, as well as a look at Bourque and his Team USA teammates, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, who should be a big part of the New York Rangers' future.

U.S. back on top
01.03.2010 / 11:09 PM ET

John Carlson blast from the point splits Jacob Markstrom's pads at 12:34 of the third. Real nice play behind the net by Jeremy Morin to set up the goal.

Good non-call
01.03.2010 / 11:03 PM ET

Refs got it right with not calling a tripping penalty on Derek Stepan. David Rundblad fell hard into the boards but not because of Stepan. Replays showed his stick didn't touch his skate.

Under review
01.03.2010 / 11:03 PM ET

They're taking a look at that U.S. shot that hit off the glass, landed on Markstrom's back and fell to the ice. It was called no-goal, but they're looking at it.

The ruling's in and it's no goal. Replays were very tough to tell.

Wasted chance
01.03.2010 / 10:55 PM ET

Nice to see Jerry D'Amigo back on the ice, but that's about all you can say good about the U.S. power play. Not only did they not score, they nearly gave up a shorthanded goal that led to a Cam Fowler penalty.

Surprising that a team that plays so well offensively at 5-on-5 can look so bad with the man advantage.

Ugly hit
01.03.2010 / 10:50 PM ET

Sitting next to an NHL scout, and he said the elbow Sweden captian Marcus Johansson hit U.S. forward Jerry D'Amigo with would be a five-game suspension. D'Amigo stayed down for a bit but was able to skate off under his own power and he's sitting on the bench now.

Johansson got a five-minute major and a game-misconduct. The U.S. needs to score on this chance.

Chris Kreider nearly did, but Markstom stopped his shot from in close. The U.S. power play hasn't been good, but now it needs to come up large.

Starting the third
01.03.2010 / 10:45 PM ET

We're tied up heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation. U.S. is lucky to still be in this game. They'll have to dial up their defensive play if they're going to have any chance of winning this game. The third period could show just how much juice the U.S. has left playing their second high-intensity game in two nights.

U.S. rallies
01.03.2010 / 10:25 PM ET

Jerry D'Amigo makes a great move around Peter Andersson in the neutral zone, fakes a shot, and rips a shot past Markstrom to tie the game. Great individual play.

Sweden goes ahead
01.03.2010 / 10:20 PM ET

More poor defensive-zone play by the U.S. let Sweden go ahead 2-1. U.S. couldn't get the puck out of zone, starting with a bad play behind the net by goalie Mike Lee. Another turnover led to Anton Rodin and Jakob Silfverberg rushing the puck to the net. They couldn't score, but Anton Lander was there for the rebound.

After a nice start, U.S. is really playing poorly defensively.

All tied up
01.03.2010 / 10:10 PM ET

Sweden tied the game off a mistake by the U.S. Bad clearing attempt led to Anton Rodin walking into the U.S. zone. Great move arond a sliding John Carlson, snaps a shot on net that Mike Lee stops but leaves a huge rebound. Anton Lander has an easy shot on the rebound.

The U.S. has had a few great chances to increase their lead but their power play again is really letting them down.

Missed opportunity
01.03.2010 / 9:57 PM ET

The U.S. got an early power play in the second period when David Rundblad was sent off for hooking, but they got just one legitimate scoring chance and it didn't come until the final seconds. It's doubtful one goal will hold up in this game, so the U.S. has to take advantage of its chances.

One period down
01.03.2010 / 9:40 PM ET

Tyler Johnson's goal has stood up so far. U.S. outshot Sweden, 11-8, but most of the game was played in the neutral zone.

Mike Lee's best save came when he gloved a Mattias Ekholm rocket midway through the period.

Back for more in the second period!

U.S. snipes first
01.03.2010 / 9:18 PM ET

Tyler Johnson nets the first goal of the game off a Kyle Palmieri rebound just 1:24 into the game. Can't ask for a much better start than that.

Who goes gold-shopping with Canada?
01.03.2010 / 9:05 PM ET

Switzerland put up a good fight, but in the end, they just ran out of gas. Playing tough, emotional games in back-to-back nights, they just couldn't keep up.

"We had a big opponent this afternoon again with Canada," said Switzerland coach Jakob Kolliker. "We prepared for the game very well, but our strength was a little bit down, our batteries were down after the game yesterday against Russia. But we believed in our strength and kept the score open as long as possible. ... I'm very proud of my players."

As well he should be. And so should Canada coach Willie Desjardins. His charges started fast and took advantage of some tired legs. They took a few bad penalties in the second period, which led to Switzerland's lone goal, but came out hot to start the third, and put the game away.

"We took a couple of uncharacteristic penalties in the second period, but I think the key is how you respond from them," said Desjardins. "I thought we turned it around in the third and played a real disciplined third."

Next is the U.S. and Sweden, with the winner getting Canada. If it's Sweden, it'll be the third straight year they meet for the gold. If it's the U.S. it'll be a rematch of one of the most entertaining games of the tournament, their New Year's Eve preliminary-round thriller.

We'll be back in a bit!

Two periods down
01.03.2010 / 6:40 PM ET

After two, Canada leads 3-1. Switzerland has played well -- better than they did in their preliminary-round loss to Canada. It's a bit different feel for Canada this year than last year's death struggle with Russia that went to a shootout.

Winner of this one gets the winner of the late semi between the U.S. and Sweden on Tuesday.

Oh, and the 50/50 is over $156,000 and rising. I'm used to Little League games where it's like $250 or $300. This is crazy. Can't wait to see what the gold-medal game nets, especially with Canada in it.

More from the third period!

Swiss on the board
01.03.2010 / 6:25 PM ET

Mauro Jorg's point shot on a power play appeared to get tipped by Tristan Scherway, but the goal goes to Jorg to make it 3-1. Canada just went back on the power play, so we could see a change.

Pretty chippy game, and a lot of fun.

The breakthrough
01.03.2010 / 6:15 PM ET

A pair of goals less than two minutes apart seems to have put the game firmly in Canada control. First a great shorthanded goal by Marco Scandella on a shot that just trickled behind Conz made it 2-0, and then Taylor Hall made a great deke, showed good strength to hold on to the puck as he cut through the crease and scored.

In between Canada goalie Jake Allen made a sensational blocker save on a rifle shot from Switzerland's Dominik Schlumpf -- great name.

It's 3-0 Canada with about 8 minutes left in the second.

Second period underway
01.03.2010 / 6:00 PM ET

Canada should have ended the first period way up in this game -- they outshot Switzerland 19-6 -- but goaltending kept the Swiss in the game. You have to think at some point Canada will break through again, but if Switzerland can keep it close and they get a break, and Conz keeps playing the way he's playing, could we get another epic upset?

More in a bit from a very entertaining game.

Just dominant
01.03.2010 / 5:35 PM ET

Something you don't see in NHL games -- Canada's power play held the puck in the Switzerland zone for 1:54 straight -- no whistles, no clears, and a bunch of shots turned aside by goalie Benjamin Conz. Canada had Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan Ellis on the points and Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Nazem Kadri down low, but Conz denied a few great chances. This game should be about 4-0 or 5-0 by now.

Canada up early
01.03.2010 / 5:18 PM ET

Canada came out fast and got the game's first goal just 3:48 in. Switzerland penalty puts Canada on the power play, and a great pass down low to a wide-open Jordan Eberle. From the bottom of the left faceoff circle, Eberle puts one under the crossbar, over Benjamin Conz's glove.

Nothing like Canada fans
01.03.2010 / 5:10 PM ET

Nothing beats the passion of Canadian hockey fans. It's not that many look like they escaped from a mental instituion, but there's almost as many folks in the stands wearing helmets and Canada sweaters as there are on the ice. There are twins with their faces painted a matching red and white with hockey helmets on and Canada sweaters -- one with Mario Lemieux's 66, the other with Wayne Gretzky's 99. 

Just as good is the woman at the glass behind the Swiss goal with a cardboard sign with a square cut in the middle to put her head through and "This is my HD" written on top. Priceless.

Oh and the 50/50 raffle was over $100,000 before the game started, and they keep selling through the third period. I contributed $10 to fund, so I feel proud. Hopefully I'll feel rich sometime later tonight.

Oh, and the game started. Stay tuned for game action right here, or follow along on NHL Network in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.

01.03.2010 / 2:45 PM ET

The relegation round is complete, as the Czech Republic routed Latvia, 10-2. Thomas Knotek had a hat trick to lead the Czechs into a game with Slovakia for seventh place on Monday.

Latvia will face Austria for the coveted ninth-place banner. Actually, the game is pretty meaningless, as both teams will be relegated to Division I next year.

Latvia has allowed 53 goals so far, with one to play, but it's remarkably a long way from record-bad. That mark is held by Japan, which allowed a ridiculous 83 goals in seven games in 1993.

The teams are getting ready for the first semifinal, so we'll be back in a bit!

Family first
01.03.2010 / 1:50 PM ET

Some choice for Ray Bourque, eh? Watch his Bruins play in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park? Or watch his son at the World Juniors in Saskatoon?

Not much of a choice -- after skating with a few Bruins legends leading up to the game, Bourque was back in Saskatoon to cheer on his son Ryan and Team USA at the World Juniors.

"I guess family comes first," said a grateful Ryan. "It's really nice to have my whole family here, my mom and my sister."

Today's relegation game is entering the third period, with the Czech Republic leading Latvia 7-2. The Czechs scored twice in the first 3:31 of the game and put five on the board in the first period. They've been crusing ever since.

It looks like Latvia and Austria will get shuttled down to Division I for next year, while the Czechs and Slovakia can book hotels in Buffalo for 2011.

More in a bit!

All apologies
01.03.2010 / 12:10 PM ET

Sorry again to everyone following along. Internet issues at the arena kept me from live-blogging the U.S. game last night. For those who might have missed it, the U.S. started fast and played strong for most of the game en route to a 6-2 win against Finland.

That brings us today's semifinals, with the U.S. facing Sweden and Canada against Switzerland.

First the U.S. Sweden's biggest advantage will be fresh legs. They haven't played since beating Finland on New Year's Eve, and really haven't been challenged in this tournament. Meanwhile, the U.S. is playing for its tournament life for a second straight day. Sweden also has the best goalie in the tournament, Jacob Markstrom, and one of the top scorers in Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson.

But the U.S. is bigger and maybe faster than the Swedes, and while they might not be as talented, they certainly have heaping portions of grit and energy. Can that carry them? It should be fun to watch -- you can catch it at 9 p.m. ET on the NHL Network-U.S.

In the other semifinal, well, Switzerland goalie Benjamin Conz might have said it best after he made 50 saves in the 3-2 overtime win against Russia -- "It would be the end of the world, because never Switzerland beats Canada in these kind of tournaments." Well, it might not be Armageddon, but it would be seismic if Switzerland could somehow beat Canada -- especially without a pair of defensemen good enough to be named to the country's Olympic squad, Luca Sbisa and Roman Josi.

But as good as Markstrom has been, Conz has seen 45 more shots than any goalie in the tournament, and he's allowed just 17 goals on 224 shots. He was outstanding against Russia, and is the kind of goalie that can get hot, frustrate a team and steal a game.

Canada isn't overlooking the Swiss -- coach Willie Desjardins said flatly, "It's not a bye," when a reporter asked him if his team had an easier path to the gold-medal game by playing Switzerland instead of Russia. Still, it's hard to imagine any other outcome than Canada advancing.

You can watch all the fun at 4 p.m. ET on the NHL Network-U.S.

First period over
01.02.2010 / 9:40 PM ET

Jordan Schroeder was on the U.S. team that lost to Slovakia a year ago in the quarterfinals, one game after an emotional loss to Canada on New Year's Eve. He's playing tonight like he's going to throw the team on his back and drag it to victory.

Two great plays to set up the U.S. goals. He tied Jeremy Roenick's all-time U.S. WJC scoring mark, and his two assists tie him with Eric Lindros for third all-time in WJC history.

More in a bit from the second period!

U.S. taking control
01.02.2010 / 9:25 PM ET

Right after a penalty on Finland for too many men on the ice, defenseman Matt Donovan pinched down to tip a Jordan Schroeder pass in to make it 2-0.

The assist tied Schroeder with Jeremy Roenick for the all-time U.S. WJC scoring record with 25 points.

U.S. on the board
01.02.2010 / 9:12 PM ET

Kyle Palmieri, who started the game on the fourth line, scores the game's first goal on a nice pass from Philip McRae. Jordan Schroeder helped set up that play by making a nice button-hook move inside the Finland blue line and centering to McRae.

Swiss supreme
01.02.2010 / 8:40 PM ET

One of the beautiful things from last year's tournament was watching Slovakia gut their way into the semifinals. This year the Cinderella slippers have been fit onto the Switzerland team. The Canadian fans adopted the Swiss as their second-favorite team, but that changes tomorrow.

What can Switzerland do to change their 6-0 round-robin loss to Canada last week? Tomorrow's semifinal will start at 4 p.m. here, and they'll likely have to go without their top two defenseman, Luca Sbisa and Roman Josi, both of whom missed the Russia game.

"We have to regenerate well now," said Swiss coach Jakob Kolliker. "The game comes quick tomorrow afternoon. We know them -- they have big speed, they're great on the power play, they have good skill, strong in front of the net. We will see what we can do against this."

What would happen if Switzerland could do it again and beat Canada?

"It would be the end of the world," goalie Benjamin Conz said, "because never has Switzerland beat Canada in this kind of tournament."

U.S. lines
01.02.2010 / 8:35 PM ET

The players are taking warm-ups for the second semifinal. Here are the lines and defense pairings U.S. coach Dean Blais will start with:

Jason Zucker-Jordan Schroeder-Ryan Bourque
Jerry D'Amigo-Derek Stepan-Danny Kristo
Chris Kreider-A.J. Jenks-Jeremy Morin
Philip McRae-Tyler Johnson-Kyle Palmieri

Matt Donovan-Cam Fowler
David Warsofsky-John Carlson
Brian Lashoff-John Ramage

Mike Lee will start in goal.

Swiss celebration
01.02.2010 / 7:31 PM ET

Nino Niederreiter does it again. The Swiss star with a great individual effort in the Russia zone. Twisting and turning and holding onto the puck, he fires a shot from above the circles that appeared to hit off the skate Russia's Nikita Pivtsakin and got past goalie Igor Bobkov. What a game!

Switzerland's prize? Canada in the semifinals tomorrow. The Swiss have been the home fans' second-favorite team, but tomorrow that all changes.

We're all tied up!
01.02.2010 / 7:11 PM ET

Switzerland's Nino Niederreiter, who plays in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks, just tied the game with 34 seconds left, and we're heading to overtime.

Time running down
01.02.2010 / 6:57 PM ET

Switzerland missed a great opportunity on its first power play of the game. We're past the halfway point in the third period, and Russia really seems to have locked down defensively, and goalie Igor Bobkov looks on his game.

Could we be looking at a rematch of last year's best game from Ottawa? Another Russia-Canada semifinal would be a lot fun.

Russia pulls ahead
01.02.2010 / 6:25 PM ET

Wow, that was fast. Russia scores twice in 16 seconds to go up 2-1 right before the end of the period. First Maxim Kitsyn with a dazzling move in the Swiss zone than a great blind backhand pass to Vlaidimir Tarasenko, who roofed it to tie the game.

Seconds later, Kirill Petov scored his fouth of the tournament to put Russia ahead.

We're through two periods here, with Russia leading.

Save of the tournament?
01.02.2010 / 6:15 PM ET

If you missed this one, catch the highlights later, because it'll be there. Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz made what might be the save of the tournament so far. Nikita Filatov had a breakaway, and as he deked to his back and lifted the puck, Conz absolutely stole one away from him with a great glove save.

Conz is draft eligible after going unselected last year. With all the NHL scouts in attendance, he's certainly getting himself on NHL radars.

We've got a goal!
01.02.2010 / 6:08 PM ET

Switzerland takes as 1-0 lead at 8:25 of the second period. Great job behind the Russia goal by Sven Ryser to poke the puck away from Russia's Anton Klementyev. Michael Loichat was in the right spot at the right time for the loose puck. He came from behind the net and shoved it between the pads of Igor Bobkov.

Right after the goal Russia went back on the power play, but it looks pretty punchless so far.

Scoreless through 1
01.02.2010 / 5:40 PM ET

The first period is in the books here, and there's no score. Russia will have 46 seconds of power-play time to start the second, thanks to a kneeing call on Benjamin Antonietti. Very evenly played period. The guess is the Swiss don't have the depth or firepower to hang this close for three periods, but one thing that team can do is skate. That's one thing that impressed U.S. coach Dean Blais after his team played them, and it's still holding true. Just avoiding the relegation round is a win for the Swiss, and they'll have to build on that next year in Buffalo.

More from the second period!

Swiss survival
01.02.2010 / 5:25 PM ET

Switzerland survived the game's first penalty, when defensean Lukas Stoop was sent off for holding. Russia defenseman Nikita Zaytsev had a bomb from the point that goalie Benjamin Conz stopped early in the advantage, and that was Russia's best chance.

Russia hasn't scored like some thought, but goalie Igor Bobkov has played very well. With Bobkov and Conz playing as well as they have, this likely will be a low-scoring game.

The first quarterfinal
01.02.2010 / 5:15 PM ET

We're underway here at the Credit Union Centre, with Russia taking on Switzerland in the first quarterfinal game. It already was going to be an uphill climb for the Swiss, and their road got even bumpier when their captain and best defenseman, Luca Sbisa, was scratched.

The first relegation game was played earlier today, with Andrej Stastny's goal 27 seconds into the third period lifting Slovakia past Austria, 3-2. Slovakia took a 2-0 lead after one period, but Austria rallied to tie it up in the second.

More to come in a bit!

Live in Saskatoon
01.02.2010 / 3:00 PM ET

Well, it took a two flights and long day of traveling, but we're finally live and on the ground in Saskatoon. We've got two semifinal games tonight -- Russia vs. Switzerland at 5 p.m. ET, followed by the U.S. vs. Finland at 9 p.m. ET. You can watch both games live and in HD on the NHL Network in the U.S. You also can follow along right here at this little corner of blog-ville.

What a game!
12.31.2009 / 11:25 PM ET

The U.S. looked like it had this one in control when Danny Kristo scored early in the third to put his team up 4-2. But Canada showed great resiliency in coming back. They earned their bye, and will face the winner of the Russia-Switzerland quarterflinal game on Jan. 3. The U.S. will play Finland in a quarterfinal game Jan. 2 at 9 p.m. ET (NHLN-US). The winner of that game gets Sweden in the semis.

U.S. goalie Jack Campbell allowed four goals, but he certainly played well enough to earn the start against Finland in the quarters. He made a number of outstanding saves and showed why he's going to be either the first or second goaltender picked in the 2010 Entry Draft.

The big question is will the U.S. be able to come back from a tough loss for the quarters. Last year they blew a 3-0 lead to Canada in the New Year's Eve game and didn't show up against Slovakia in the quarterfinals. U.S. captain Derek Stepan said all the right things: "It hurts a little bit but then again it was just a game to see if we can get a bye. We lost, but you gotta hang in there. We have three more games to go after tonight."

I'm sure the U.S. felt similar last year.

All in all, a great day of hockey capped by a great game. There's a day off tomorrow, and then I'll be leaving the basement for frosty Saskatoon to cover the medal round in person. Happy New Year to all, and check for a story wrapping up all the action tonight, hopefully with quotes from both sides.

Shootout time
12.31.2009 / 10:40 PM ET

U.S. wins the toss, defers to allow Canada to shoot first.

Jordan Eberle up first for Canada. Eberle dekes, goes to the backhander and flips it off the post, it drops onto Campbell's back and falls into the net.

Danny Kristo for the U.S. and he answers with a wrist shot that beats Jake Allen high over the glove.

Nazem Kadri shows his beautiful hands, gets Campbell falling and scores easily.

Jeremy Morin answers for the U.S. and goes high glove.

Brandon Kozun for Canada and he scores between Campbell's pads.

Jordan Schroeder with the game on the line. Breaks in ... and Allen snaps the pads shut. Canada wins it, 5-4.

12.31.2009 / 10:30 PM ET

Extra time underway. Most recent posts at the top:

That's it for overtime. Next it's the shootout. This is a little different from the NHL, in that teams can use the same skater more than once. A few years ago, Canada beat the U.S. in a shootout when they used Jonathan Toews, I believe, two or three times in a row.

Huge rolling save by Campbell to deny Jordan Eberle on a breakaway. NHLN's Dave Starman called it a Hasek flop, and he was pretty accurate. Campbell dropped on his back and got his stick on it to push it aside in the final seconds.

Patrice Cormier strong wrist shot, nice save Campbell with just over a minute left.

Ryan Ellis long shot that hits Campbell in the glove and goes into the corner, but U.S. grabs it.

Taylor Hall has a good chance off a long pass, but Cam Fowler smothers him. Patrice Cormier another chance, but strong play by the U.S. defense lets Campbell grab the puck.

Derek Stepan nice play to kil off a Canada chance.

The third period
12.31.2009 / 9:50 PM ET

Third period underway. Most recent posts at the top:

That's it -- we're headed for overtime. It's five minutes of 4-on-4 play, followed by a shootout.

Taylor Hall good chance, but Campbell deflects the shot with his blocker. Two of the better players available for the 2010 Entry Draft.

Did Canada score? Jordan Eberle a sensational move to get to the net, he got pulled down and pushed the puck toward the net. Campbell dove to poke the puck away from Brayden Schenn, but Schenn fell on top of Campbell. The puck rolled to a Canada player -- couldn't tell who -- and he scored, but the referees waved it off immediately. We're still tied going into the final 2 minutes of regulation.

Great chance for Stepan right as the power play ends. The U.S. captain cuts through the faceoff circle and fires a shot that Allen grabs with his logo.

Goal Canada -- We're all tied up as Alex Pietrangelo buries a shorthanded marker. Pietrangelo grabs a poor John Carlson clearing attempt, beat a U.S. backchecking forward and beat Campbell high to tie it, 4-4, with just over 4 minutes left.

Jordan Eberle whistled for high-sticking, putting the U.S. on the power play with 5:04 left.

U.S. players doing everything they can to dive in front of pucks as the American survive another Canada power play. Jordan Schroeder limped off after blocking one shot late in the kill, but you know he'll be back.

Campbell really getting bumped around, knocked down by Taylor Hall and his own defenseman Jake Gardiner, but he's able to recover and stop Nazem Kadri's shot from the right circle.

Penalty coming on the U.S. Jenks called for an obvious holding penalty with about 8:15 left. U.S. has ridden its PK play tonight. Can they do it again?

Marco Scandella a bomb from the blue line through traffic, but somehow Campbell sees it and stops it with just under 9 minutes left. Canada really is pushing the pace, and the U.S. really is struggling.

Nice to see Palmieri back on the U.S. bench.

Goal Canada -- great puck possession behind the U.S. net by Jordan Eberle and Brayden Schenn. Puck goes back out high, and Eberle tips the shot past Jack Campbell to make it 4-3 with 9:56 left in the period.

Kyle Palmieri took a hard hit in front of the U.S. bench. Looked like he went ribs first into the top of the dasher and went right up the chute toward the locker room.

Danny Kristo snaps one on net that goes off Alex Pietrangelo's skate, but Jake Allen is able to smother it on the ice with 12:15 left.

Canada 3-on-2, Stefan Della Rovere shot, nice save by Campbell.

Canada own-zone turnover, Derek Stepan walks into the slot, shot, save by Allen with his logo.

What a start to the third period! Taylor Hall great drag move but he missed the net. Then he did it again. Play goes the other way, and Derek Stepan feeds Danny Kristo, and he beats Jake Allen to make it 4-2 for the U.S. Kristo great fake to keep Ryan Ellis at bay to get the shot off.

The quarterfinals
12.31.2009 / 9:45 PM ET

The U.S.-Canada game is the final one of the preliminary round. The winner gets the top spot in Group A and a bye into the semifinals. The loser gets Finland in a quarterfinal match. Finland lost to Sweden, 7-1, even though they outshot them, 39-28. Sweden goalie Jacob Markstrom was strong, and Jacob Josefson scored twice. Sweden already had clinched Group B and earned a bye into the semis.

The big win today came from Switzerland, which punched its ticket into the knockout round by beating Slovakia, 4-1. Nino Niederreiter, a top-rated talent for the 2010 Entry Draft -- and no stranger to Saskatoon and the Credit Union Centre during his trips there with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks -- scored twice.

Switzerland will play Russia in the quarters. Russia finished its prelim play with a 4-2 defeat of the Czech Republic. Russia's best player again was Igor Bobkov, who stopped 39 of 41 shots. Vladimir Tarasenko, Central Scouting's top-rated Russian skater in its preliminary rankings, had a pair of goals.

The second period
12.31.2009 / 8:55 PM ET

We're back here to start the second. We'll follow the same plan, with most recent posts at the top:

Two periods down and the U.S. has a 3-2 lead. Give all the credit tonight to the U.S. penalty killers. Canada came into the game 13-for-24 on the man-advantage, but the U.S. has killed off four chances and most of a fifth, and they've scored a pair of shorthanded goals. Can the U.S. hold on? We've got 20 minutes to find out. Back in a bit!

Goal U.S. -- Jerry D'Amigo starts a rush out of his own zone around Alex Pietrangelo. He throws a shot on net that Jake Allen stops, but a driving Tyler Johnson pops the rebound over Allen with 11 seconds left in the period.

Another penalty on the U.S. A.J. Jenks going off for interference with 1:04 left.

U.S. survives the penalty to Gardiner. We're down to 1:40 left in the period.

Penalty coming on the U.S. as Stefan Della Rovere is checked into the goalpost by Jake Gardiner and loses his helmet. Canada power play with 3 1/2 minutes left in the second.

Nazem Kadri shot through traffic, good save Campbell.

Interesting that it was Eberle who tied the game. The last time Canada trailed in a WJC game was last year's memorable semifinal against Russia, and it was Eberle who scored the miracle goal with about 5 seconds left.

Kreider leads the U.S. in goals, but he shoots wide of the net.

Chris Kreider drives around Colten Teubert and gets a penalty shot.

Goal Canada -- Great move by Jordan Eberle to cut around goalie Jack Campbell, avoid the poke check and put the puck into the net to tie the game with 8:40 left. Brayden Schenn made a real nice pass to set him up.

Pretty amazing stat -- this is just the sixth time Canada has trailed in a WJC game since losing to the U.S. in the 2004 gold-medal game.

Two big bodies collide as Colten Teubert takes down U.S. center A.J. Jenks. U.S really pushing after the shorthanded goal. Canada really seems to have had the wind taken out of them.

U.S. survives the Canada power play, and Schroeder's shorthanded goal was huge. Puts him two points shy of Jeremy Roenick's U.S. all-time WJC scoring mark.

Goal U.S. -- Tyler Johnson springs Jordan Schroeder on a breakaway, and he beats Jake Allen between the pads for a shorthanded goal.

Now a penalty getting called on the U.S. Derek Stepan gets called for hooking Nazem Kadri with 13:11 left in the period.

U.S. giveaway to Nazem Kadri 5 minutes into the period, but Campbell makes the save.

Campbell got a little brave with his puckhandling and nearly cost the U.S. a goal.

Penalty coming on Canada -- Stefan Della Rovere going off for tripping Brian Lashoff about 3 minutes in.

Jack Campbell nice save on a Patrice Cormier shot off the 3-on-2 Canada rush with 17:40 left.

Can the U.S. play at the same pace? Canada will continue to push them, but the U.S. has played well in the second period of each of its first three games.

The first period
12.31.2009 / 8:10 PM ET

Most recent posts at the top:

The first period comes to an end. Great tempo, lots of up and down action. We'll be back in a bitl

The U.S. survives the penalty to Fowler, but Canada really pushing. Bouncing shot by Scandella that Campbell carefully steers away. Down to 90 seconds left in the period.

Penalty coming on the U.S. -- tripping on defenseman Cam Fowler. First chance for Canada to show its power-play aptitude. Canada 13-for-24 coming into the game.

Jason Zucker nice shot off the Canada turnover, appears to handcuff Allen, but he makes a nice glove save.

David Warsofsky nice move on the rush, snaps a shot on goal that Allen calmly turns away with 5:30 left.

Great chance shorthanded created by U.S. captain Derek Stepan. He crossed a pass to John Ramage and then nearly got the tip on Ramage's shot.

Marco Scandella shot on the 4-on-4 that Campbell bobbles, and needs help clearing.

Chris Kreider going to the box, that ends the U.S. power play. He turned the puck over to Canada's Patrice Cormier, then got whistled for hooking him.

Penalty coming on Canada, I believe on Della Rovere. We'll see what the U.S. can do with another opportunity, this one halfway through the period.

Chris Kreider leads a U.S. rush, centers to Jeremy Morin, snaps it on net from the slot, nice save by Jake Allen with about 12 minutes left.

Nazem Kadri wraparound attempt, Campbell stuffs him on the post with 13:10 left.

U.S. defenseman Brian Lashoff dumps Taylor Hall at center ice. That's a matchup to watch tonight. Lashoff has been the U.S.'s most physical defenseman.

Goal U.S. -- puck down low, in traffic, with three players driving to the net, Philip McRae gets the power-play score to tie the game.

U.S. has a chance to respond on a roughing penalty to Brayden Schenn. Their power play is 6-for-18 in the tournament, but it hasn't really looked all that great.

Goal Canada -- That didn't take long. U.S. loses an offensive-zone draw, Canada's Stefan Della Rovere crashes in to knock the rebound past goalie Jack Campbell as he crashes into the net.

One of those days
12.31.2009 / 8:10 PM ET

Children are wonderful people, but they make working a bit difficult. Anyway, the kiddies are asleep, and it's time for the marquee match of the preliminary round -- U.S. vs. Canada. You can watch live on the NHL Network in the U.S., TSN in Canada, or follow along right here.

Blogging "issues"
12.30.2009 / 9:35 AM ET

Apologies to all the folks who were depending on this little corner of the blog-o-sphere for their updates on the World Junior Championship. For anyone with small children, I'm sure they'll understand -- the kids are home from school and somebody's gotta watch them, and yesterday that was me, home all day with my 4-year-old daughter and 16-month-old son. Watching anything other than Dora or Handy Manny in that situation is difficult -- doing it while paying attention and blogging is bordering on the impossible. So all apologies.

Here, though, are a few observations:

* Not much you can really take from the U.S. route of Latvia, but it was nice to see Danny Kristo get on track a bit. Coach Dean Blais dropped Kristo from the top line, and apparently the message got across as he had a real solid game offensively.

* Watching Chris Kreider get to the net -- and not just against Latvia -- must have Rangers brass drooling. Same with Derek Stepan, who has been very good. But Kreider has used his size very well, and his skating has been very good.

* Some ride for Jason Zucker, eh? He goes from being one of the last forwards selected -- Blais said before the tournament, "We didn't want to take him, but he made it." -- to nearly getting tossed from the first game of the tournament to playing on the first line and scoring twice against Latvia last night.

* If this is Taylor Hall's audition for NHL scouts, he's doing pretty well in his quest to be the first pick of the 2010 Entry Draft. A hat trick and an assist against Slovakia was good; if he can come back with another strong effort Thursday against the U.S., it would be awfully tough to see anyone else jump past him.

* It's hard to believe the experts in the Canadian media were questioning the junior team's scoring ability heading into the tournament. Canada leads the tournament with 30 goals and has the best power play, at a remarkable 54.1 percent (13-for-24).

* Anyone else getting tired of all the blowouts? Seven of the first 14 games were decided by five goals or more. Last year, eight of the first 14 were five-goal spreads or more. What's the solution? Two entries from Canada might work? Cutting back to eight teams? Putting in a five-goal mercy rule? One of the better suggestions -- can't take credit for this one, it came from a radio interview I did with a station in Edmonton -- is to change the tie-breaker from goal differential to fewest goals allowed. I like that, because it rewards skill rather than promotes blow outs.

* Sweden's win agianst Russia pretty much clinches Group B and a bye into the semifinals for them. There were high hopes for Russia entering the tournament, but they need to do more than rely on goalie Igor Bobkov if they want to get back to the medal stand. Nikita Filatov has just one goal in the first three games; it would be nice to see a player with NHL experience would be doing more. Canada defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has a similar hockey resume as Filatov, and he's been very strong, leading all defenseman with 8 points. Bottom line -- Russia needs more from Filatov.

* Two games today -- Finland against Austria, and Switzerland against Austria. I'm in Newark covering the Devils-Penguins game tonight but I'll try to keep coming with the updates.

Big Mac attack
12.28.2009 / 9:00 PM ET

Some game for Brandon McMillan. The Canada forward scored in the game's first minute and completed a hat trick with a goal in the final minute as Canada topped Switzerland, 6-0.

Jordan Eberle had a goal and 4 assists -- including assists on all three of McMillian's goals -- and Nazem Kadri had a goal and an assist. Canada outshot Switzerland 54-15. Goalie Jake Allen stopped all 15 shots; in two games, he has two shutouts, making 25 saves in all. He's the first goalie in Canada history to start the tournament with back-to-back shutouts.

Canada defenseman Calvin de Haan, a 2009 first-round pick of the Islanders, was injured in the third period and will be re-evaluated tomorrow.

Switzerland goalie Benjamin Conz again was strong despite the loss. Despite the 6-0 score, his play kept it even that close.

Next for Canada is Slovakia tomorrow (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

In the other game today, Russia goalie Igor Bobkov stopped all 46 shots he faced in a 2-0 defeat of  Finland. Russia captain Nikita Filatov had a goal and an assist. Russia joins Sweden at the top of Group B. Those teams will meet tomorrow (6 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

More tomorrow from the blog.

Canada in control
12.28.2009 / 5:10 PM ET

Canada coach Willie Desjardins tore into his team during the intermission, and I guess it's safe to say the message got through as Canada scored three times in the first 3:42 of the second. Nazem Kadri made it 3-0 just 1:06 into the second, and 20 seconds later Jordan Eberle made it 4-0. Brandon McMillian's second of the game made it 5-0.

Switzerland hasn't stopped skating, and goalie Benjamin Conz is playing well, but at this point, Switzerland just getting a goal could be considered a win.

One period done
12.28.2009 / 4:45 PM ET

That first period just flew by. Switzerland didn't really look tired after playing yesterday against the U.S. Brandon McMillan scored 23 seconds into the game, and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo scored a power-play goal from the high slot at 8:14. Once again, Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz is playing very well. He reminds me of Slovakia goalie Jaroslav Janus, who wowed last year's tournament by knocking the U.S. out of medal contention and nearly doing the same to Sweden in the semifinals.

I'll be back with more in a bit.

U.S. at rest
12.28.2009 / 4:25 PM ET

Just talked to U.S. coach Dean Blais prior to riding to the Credit Union Centre for today's Canada-Switzerland game -- live on NHL Network in the U.S. -- about a few things regarding his team's two wins to start the tournament. The full story will be up on soon, but here are a few snippets:

* Blais is unconcerned by the early penalties in both games. He said the high-sticking call in the first against Slovakia that put his team down 5-on-3 and led to Slovakia's second goal was questionable at best, and he still seems steamed over the game-misconduct early in the first that should have been called on Jason Zucker but instead saw Tyler Johnson get tossed.

"Wasn't a lack of discipline," Blais told me. "Says on the score sheet that we're leading in penalties (they're really second), but they've been as disciplined as we want to see them."

Johnson is listed as the leader in penalty minutes, but the TSN broadcasters doing the Canada-Switzerland game said that's been rescinded.

* Blais said the other reason he's OK with the penalties is it shows his team is playing the way it wants, especially on the forecheck.

"When you play physical you're going to get a penalty or two," Blais said. "When you play with energy you're going to get a call or two. You start getting the guys being afraid to finish checks and hit, you've lost them. We want 70-80 hits a game and with that there's going to be penalties."

* Mike Lee will start in goal Tuesday against Latvia, but that doesn't mean he's now the No. 1 starter. Blais would not commit to a starter for Thursday's marquee match against Canada.

"Depends on how he plays," said Blais. "Is he our No. 1 or is Jack (Campbell) our No. 1? We'll have to go on feel and how they play in practice. One's not playing better than the other. They're playing good most of the time, whether it's game or practice."

I'll be popping in periodically during the Canada-Switzerland game. Brandon McMillan scored 23 seconds into the game, but Blais said Canada shouldn't expect another 16-0 laugher like they had against Latvia.

"They're a good hockey team," said Blais. "They have enough depth with three lines and four good (defensemen). ... They're going to throw some pretty good smoke at Canada." Blais did say he thought Canada would win, but that it would look a lot like his team's win against Switzerland. 

Latvia scores!
12.27.2009 / 9:30 PM ET

It took 93:27 of game time -- 13:27 of the second period of their second game, to be exact -- for Latvia to score its first goal of the tournament. Then they scored another 55 seconds later.

Not that it's going to matter much. They trailed Slovakia 7-0 when Miks Lipsbergs scored first for Latvia. Roberts Bukarts scored the second goal. I'll have more later when the game goes final. 

Finland wins in high drama
12.27.2009 / 9:12 PM ET

The Czech Republic took a 3-0 lead 7:53 into the second period against Finland, but the Finns scored the next four goals to win it, 4-3.

Teemu Hartikanen got a goal back in the second, Sami Vatanen scored twice in the third to tie the game, and then Joonas Rask -- younger brother of Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask -- scored the winner with 2:12 to play.

In the late game, Richard Panik scored twice in a five-goal first period for Slovakia, which led 5-0 after the first 20 minutes. I'll have more later on that game.

You also can read all about the day's actions here on

On to Latvia
12.27.2009 / 6:15 PM ET

Not a bad debut for U.S. goalie Jack Campbell, as he registers a shutout in his World Junior Championship debut.

Chris Kreider named player of the game for the U.S. Another strong effort -- for two periods. Next for the U.S. is Latvia on Tuesday, and then the big one Thursday against Canada that likely will be for the Group A lead and the first-round bye.

Two more games tonight, the Czech Republic vs. Finland and Slovakia vs. Latvia. We'll have wrap-ups of those games a bit later on.

The third period
12.27.2009 / 5:45 PM ET

Time for the third period. Same as the first two, most recent posts first:

That's it for the U.S., as they improve to 2-0 with the 3-0 victory.

Goal U.S. -- A.J. Jenks followed up on a Jeremy Morin rebound to make it 3-0 at 16:36.

Chris Kreider nearly made it 3-0 when he broke in alone, but Conz was up to the effort, and then was ready when his teammates gave it away right in front of him.

Goal U.S. -- Kyle Palmieri starts the play by blocking a shot in his end and breaking in alone. Conz made a sensational rolling save, but the U.S. stayed with the play. Ryan Bourque sent the rebound to Matt Donovan who skated into one and lasered a slap shot past Conz at 12:35 to make it 2-0.

Nothing happening on the power play. Jerry D'Amigo on a wraparound attempt with 8:27 left is denied by Conz's quick glove low.

U.S. should have made it 2-0. U.S. definitely trying to be too fine. Jason Zucker great pass across to Tyler Johnson, but he tried to be too perfect, and ended up throwing a pass in front that saw only sticks and skates. Something does go right, however, as the U.S. goes on the power play midway through the period.

Switzerland staying on the attack here in the third. They've really pushed the U.S. here with their speed.

U.S. on the power play early, but they can't generate much. Sorry if the posts are a little less frequent this period. My 16-month-old son wants to play.

The second period

12.27.2009 / 4:55 PM ET

We're back to start the second period. Same as the first, most recent post first:

Nice job by the U.S. penalty killers as Switzerland barely had the puck in the zone. The second period is over and the U.S. certainly played better than the first. Benjamin Conz in the Switzerland net has kept this a one-goal game. We'll be back in a bit with the third period.

Tripping call on David Warsofsky puts Switzerland on the power play with 2:23 left in the period.

Power play ends and nearly in disaster for U.S. Switzerland gets a turnover right in front of the U.S. goal, but Jack Campbell makes a sharp save with about 5:30 left.

Robbery by Conz on Chris Kreider in front on the first shift of the extra-man attack.

Great rush by Jordan Schroeder and Ryan Bourque capped by a great move by Bourque that nearly led to a goal, but Benjamin Conz has been Switzerland's best player and he made a nice save. TV timeout here, but when play starts U.S. will be back on the power play.

Great chance in front for Derek Stepan between the hash marks, but Conz made a nice glove stop wtih about 9:15 left in the period.

No goals for the U.S. on the power play but they continue to ramp up the attack. Maybe they were able to flip the switch like last night against Slovakia. We're halfway through the period and the U.S. looks much better than they did in the first.

U.S. back on the power play. First group had decent zone time, but couldn't get a good shot off. Jordan Schroeder jumps on and immediately gets a nice chance.

Goal U.S. -- Good puck movement as Derek Stepan feeds Cam Fowler at the point and the defenseman rips a one-timer through a Chris Kreider screen for the power-play goal 6 minutes into the period. Actually, the goal is going to Kreider, as the officials said the puck hit him before going in.

U.S. on the power play for the first time. Great early chance for Derek Stepan and Jordan Schroeder on the rebound, but the Swiss clear it.

U.S. nearly gets the first goal. Big blast by Matt Donovan, rebound was loose in the crease and nearly went in with Jordan Schroeder and Kyle Palimieri lurking.

Early chance for the U.S. Jordan Schroeder nice drop pass for Cam Fowler shot from the high slot, juggling glove save by the Swiss goalie.

Sweden survives
12.27.2009 / 4:45 PM ET

This final just in -- Sweden survives a real scare to beat Austria, 7-3. Sweden took a 3-0 lead early in the second and looked to be crusing. But all that changed in a 12-minute span as Austria tied the score. What could have gone down as a remarkable upset ended as Sweden's Anton Rodin scored 1:34 after Austria tied the game to lead 4-3 after two periods. The third period was all Sweden.

Anders Nilsson was in goal for Sweden, which means coach Per Marts hopes nothing happens to starter Jakob Markstrom.

The first period
12.27.2009 / 4:22 PM ET

Blogging live as we go; most recent posts at the top:

The first period is over, and while I missed the first few minutes, they looked very similar to last night's opening 20 minutes against Slovakia. The U.S. was out-shot by the Swiss and for the most part outplayed. Last night they turned it on in the second and third. We'll see if they can flip the switch again. We'll be back in a bit with the second period.

Wow, great move by Jeffrey Fuglister to get around the U.S. defense and nearly put one past Campbell, but the U.S. goalie was able to sprawl out and get his blocker on the puck along the ice.

Swiss goalie Benjamin Conz is having a nice game. He's seen eight shots in the first 15 minutes, but just stopped a nice chance by Jordan Schroeder.

Nice save on a low shot by a Swiss player. The rebound hit off Brian Lashoff and nearly sneaked in, but Campbell was all over it with 6:40 left in the period.

John Ramage led a strong effort by the U.S. penalty killers as they survive a Swiss shooting gallery. The U.S. survived poor early play yesterday against Slovakia. It can't continue to put itself in this kind of hole.

U.S. penalty killers under siege again. Looks like the early parts of last night's game, when Slovakia dominated them on the power play. Now John Carlson goes off for shooting the puck over the glass, puts the U.S. down two men for about 45 seconds.

Bad penalty on Luke Walker, who takes an interference call on an unnecassary hard hit. Swiss go on the power play at 9:51 of the period.

And ...we're back!
12.27.2009 / 4:20 PM ET

We're already started on game No. 2 for the U.S. Goalie Jack Campbell made an outstanding save on a close-in shot to keep the game scoreless about 7 minutes in.

Anaheim Ducks prospect Luca Sbisa is wearing the captain's C for the Swiss. After Mike Lee started in goal last night for the U.S., Campbell, NHL Central Scouting's top-rated American-born goalie for the 2010 Entry Draft, gets the start against Switzerland.

We'll keep this live as we go. If you can't watch live and in HD on NHL Network, keep clicking!

It's all over
12.26.2009 / 10:35 PM ET

The U.S. closes it out with the 7-3 win. Derek Stepan had a goal and 2 assists, and Danny Kristo, Jerry D'Amigo and John Carlson had a goal and an assist each. D'Amigo was named player of the game for the U.S. Radoslav Illo had a pair of assists, and was named Slovakia's best player.

The third period
12.26.2009 / 10:20 PM ET

We're back for the third period. Same as the first two, most recent posts at the top:

Big hits still coming right to the final horn.

Fans booing John Carlson every time he touches the puck. Not sure why.

Another power play for the U.S. Seems like Slovakia has accepted the inevitiable and is taking lazy penalties.

John Carlson had the best chance as the power play expired, but Ciliak made a good low save to deny him from in close.

Another power play for the U.S. as Radoslav Illo is sent off for slashing with 8:02 left.

Two-man advantage here for the U.S., but they can't capitilize. On the remainder of the 5-on-4 advantage they also come close, but can't finish.

U.S. scores -- Jerry D'Amigo dropped a pass to Danny Kristo and cut to the net. Kristo returned the puck and D'Amigo tipped the low pass behind Ciliak to make it 7-3.

Tomas Tatar doing some nice work for Slovakia, nearly got a goal walking in front with 14 minutes left.

Slovakia goal ... not quite --
Maros Grosaft thought he had a goal, but replays showed he obviously kicked the puck past Mike Lee.

U.S. goal -- Jordan Schroeder just 58 seconds into period. Kyle Palmieri drills a Slovakia player on the forecheck and Schroeder knocks in the loose puck in front.

Another final score
12.26.2009 / 9:56 PM ET

Another final score to report. Russia got a pair of goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov and a goal and 2 assists from Kirill Petrov in a 5-2 defeat of Austria in Regina. The game was tied 1-1 in the first period, but Russia scored three times in the last 5 1/2 minutes of the first to control the game.

The second period
12.26.2009 / 9:46 PM ET

We'll be doing this live again. Most recent post at the top:

The second period comes to an end with a far better feeling for the U.S. Their aggression lasted all 20 minutes as they really tilted the ice toward the Slovakia end. We'll be back in a bit with the final period.

U.S. nearly got another one as Carlson got in deep and made a nice play on the puck in front, but Ciliak was able to dive on it with 90 seconds left in period.

John Carlson back, so that's a good sign. He'll be a big part of whatever success the U.S. has in this tournament.

Slovakia's Andrej Stastny big hit on Jason Zucker -- late, on a delayed penalty on the U.S. Matt Donovan jumps Stastny and all 10 skaters come together in the U.S. end. Zucker and Stastny each to spend time in the penalty box with 4:51 left in the second.

John Carlson down for the U.S. Not sure what happened, but I'm sure Caps GM George McPhee is watching closely.

U.S. goal -- U.S. answers. Great paly John Ramage to hold the puck in at the point. Derek Stepan grabs the puck and makes a fabulous pass to a cutting Danny Kristo and he chips the puck past Ciliak to make it 5-3.

Slovakia goal -- Good puck movement ends up with Richard Panik, the Tampa Bay prospect, on the goal line. Donovan got caught looking the wrong way and Panik put past Lee.

Another U.S. penalty, but they still are able to be aggressive and keep the Slovaks pinned in their end and limit any real scoring chances.

Double-whammy for A.J. Jenks. He gets whacked in the mouth by a high stick, and then goes off for cross checking. But right away Slovakia's Radoslav Illo going off for interference. We'll be 4-on-4 for two minutes halfway through the period.

The U.S. really has taken control of this game. Their forecheck has really put Slovakia back on its heels and stifled their breakouts. Were it not for their awful start, this game would be over.

U.S. scores again -- Off a Slovakia penalty, Chris Kreider takes a Cam Fowler pass and fires a shot on the move that Ciliak stops, but Matt Donovan, following the play, scores on the rebound. U.S. now leads 4-2.

Goal U.S. -- Great puck movement around the perimeter. Derek Stepan gets the pass above the circles in the middle, wires a wrister over Ciliak's glove at 5:39 to put the U.S. up 3-2.

Danny Kristo great move to nearly put the U.S. ahead about five minutes into the period. Carried down the right wing, cut to the net, nearly put it in low on the Slovak net. U.S. has been real aggressive on the forecheck, carrying over their play from the latter parts of the first period.

Goal U.S. -- Great work by A.J. Jenks to set up the Jeremy Morin goal. Jenks won a five-man puck battle in the Slovakia end. The puck ended up with Morin, who pulled the puck off the wall behind the net, lost the puck, recovered and settled it, and scored to tie the game, 2-2.

We're back and the U.S. escapes starting the period shorthanded.

The first period
12.26.2009 / 8:47 PM ET

I'll be doing this live as it goes ...

The U.S. killed off the first half of the Slovakia power play. They'll start the second down a man and down a goal, but they certainly played better the second half of the first. We're going to take a break to rest the fingers. See you in the second.

U.S. bench minor, too many men on the ice with a minute left. Horrible time for a penalty.

Great U.S. scoring chance by John Carlson with 2 minutes left in the period. Defenseman jumped into the rush and nearly toe-dragged the puck around a sprawled Ciliak, but the Slovak goalie was just able to get his arm and glove on the shot.

U.S. defenseman Brian Lashoff did something I haven't seen in a while. He fired the puck into the Slovakia end, then leveled Samuel Mlynarovic. They just showed Martin Stajnoch on TV, and he looked awful, his face was very swollen. He's in street clothes, so his night is over.

U.S. on its first power play. Decent zone time, best scoring chance was a high shot from slot by  Danny Kristo, but Ciliak gloved it.

Jordan Schroeder with a great move on a play that should have been offsides, forced Ciliak to make a nice save in tight, about 8:40 left.

Goal U.S. -- Derek Stepan wins an offensive-zone draw back to John Carlson, and he blasts a shot from the rgith point through traffic at 9:34. U.S. still trails 2-1.

Well, we know why Tyler Johnson left the ice. Referees mistakenly gave the penalty and game misconduct to Johnson.

U.S. best chance. John Carlson jumped into the rush, but Slovakia goalie Marek Ciliak with a nice save with just over 12 minutes left.

Well, that didn't work out so well. U.S. lost another draw off a penalty, and Slovakia made the U.S. pay. Lee stopped an initial shot but left himself out of position, which let Martin Bakos put in an easy one. Slovakia up 2-0.

Another penalty on the U.S. High sticking on Luke Walker, puts the U.S. down two men for 1:58, 14:38 left in the first. Big kill needed.

Goal Slovakia -- U.S. lost the faceoff off the penalty, quick shot that went through Mike Lee and trickled into the net. Jakub Gasparovic scores on a snap shot from the right circle just 2:15 into the game.

Wow, big hit by Stojanov from Slovakia on Danny Kristo. Minutes later Jason Zucker got him back with what looked like a clean hit, but the referees have been instructed to be vigilant on hits to the head. Five-minute major and game misconduct on Zucker. Also Tyler Johnson appears to be shaken up and has left the bench.

Two games, two blowouts
12.26.2009 / 8:05 PM ET

Not much to report on the first two games of the World Juniors. Sweden opened with a 10-1 rout of a Czech Republic team that had looked decent during the exhibition games, and then Canada dropped a heavy hammer on Latvia, winning 16-0.

In the first game, Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi had a goal and 4 assists, Anton Lander had 2 goals and Anton Lander had a goal and 2 assists -- I guess that broken nose he suffered on a Patrice Cormier elbow in the exhibition game against Canada wasn't bothering him.

Canada started fast and never let up against Latvia. Gabriel Bourque scored just 36 seconds into the game. Canada led 5-0 after one period, 11-0 after two.

Bourque finished with 3 goals and 4 assists, with the seven points tying a Canada record for most points in a single WJC game. The outburst tied Mike Cammalleri and Dave Andreychuk. Bourque and his linemates, Cormier and Brandon McMillan, combined for 17 points.

"It feels pretty good," Bourque told TSN after the game. "It was just the first game of the tournament and I don't want to go too high. It's just the first game. I'm excited but I have to focus on the next game."

Jordan Eberle, Brandon Kozun, Cormier, Nazem Kadri and Luke Adam had a pair of goals each, and goalie Jake Allen stopped all 10 shots Latvia got on him.

The U.S. is about to start its game against Slovakia. Last year when these teams met, Slovakia stunned the U.S. in the quarterfinals. Jaroslav Janus was in goal and stole the game for the Slovakia. He won't be there, but Slovakia's one-two scoring punch of Tomas Tatar and Richard Panik are very good.

Derek Stepan will wear the captain's C for the U.S. Jordan Schroeder and John Carlson are assistant captains. Mike Lee appears to be the choice to start in goal.

Catch the game live and in HD on the NHL Network. Or keep right here at and I'll be blogging away.

Let the games begin!
12.26.2009 / 10:20 AM ET

Here we are, finally -- after all the build up, all the previewing, all the roster permutations, the 2010 World Junior Championship are just a few hours from starting. The first game starts at 2 p.m., when the Czech Republic and Sweden meet at the Brandt Centre in Regina.

Canada opens its run for a sixth straight WJC gold medal at 4 p.m. ET, against Latvia. You can catch that game live and in high-definition on the NHL Network in the U.S. U.S. fans also will be able to catch a tape-delayed broadcast of Czech-Sweden at 6 p.m. ET, followed by an 8 p.m. ET puck drop between the U.S. and Slovakia.

And all along, will be blogging away all the action. We'll also have post-game reaction following the U.S. game. So click early and click often.

Canada on a roll
12.24.2009 / 10:10 AM ET

Canada won its final exhibition game last night, beating a game Czech Republic team, 3-2, at the Brandt Centre in Regina, Sask.

After Dallas prospect Tomas Vincour -- who plays for the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings -- scored the game's first goal in the second period, but Canada responded with three goals in the second half of the period.

Taylor Hall scored for the third straight game to start the attack. Jordan Eberle, the hero of last year's tournament, notched a power-play goal to put Canada ahead, and Gabriel Bourque scored shorthanded. Jan Kana scored in the third for the Czechs, but goalie Jake Allen shut things down and Canada held on for the win.

Again, it was a chippy affair as the Czechs were whistled for nine penalties and threw numerous hard hits. Defenseman Radko Gudas threw around every bit of his 5-foot-11-inch, 192-pound frame. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as Gudas plays for the WHL's Everett Silvertips and was the No. 21 skater on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary ranking of WHL skaters.

While Canada has to continue to be wary of getting too caught up in physical play and taking bad penalties -- Stefan Della Rovere was sent off for goaltender interference and boarding, and captain Patrice Cormier was called for high-sticking -- their penalty killing has been outstanding, and no one should be questioning their scoring ability.

Hall has 3 goals, Eberle has 2 goals and 5 points, and Nazem Kadri has 4 assists.

But these comments from Hall have to be golden words for coach Willie Desjardins:

"Yeah, I scored in three straight games but I'm also proud of the fact that I wasn't on for a goal against," Hall said. "I think that's pretty big on Team Canada. Any time you can be a good player in both zones, (Desjardins) is going to rely on you."

Looking at the U.S.
12.23.2009 / 10:20 PM ET

The U.S. team spent the day moving into its digs in Saskatoon, where they arrived this morning following Tuesday night's exhibition loss in Moose Jaw.

"Good hockey weather," said coach Dean Blais of the 10 degree weather.

Talking to Blais about the U.S. roster, one thing that immediately jumps out is the youth, including four 17-year-olds. Goaltender Jack Campbell will be one of the youngest players in the WJC -- he's the youngest on the U.S. roster -- and defenseman Cam Fowler also will play a major role.

The U.S. should be very strong and smooth on defense. Fowler is very poised and could be a top-five draft pick in June. Watching Jake Gardiner skate the puck is like watching silk getting pulled along the ice. And it won't be long before John Carlson has a full-time job with the Caps.

Back in the summer at Lake Placid, one of the best U.S. lines was Jordan Schroeder centering Kyle Palmieri and Ryan Bourque, but Blais said he didn't see enough from that group to keep them together for the tournament.

"I think we're going to have to experiment a little bit," Blais told me. "It really didn't click last night for whatever reason, didn't seem to have the kick that we needed. … Didn't have a whole lot of chemistry. We'll probably try something different."

But those three players, as well as Kristo, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan should fill the top two lines.

Schroeder will be the key. This will be his third WJC, and he needs to lead on and off the ice. Blais wouldn't commit to him being captain, and when I asked who he thought should wear the 'C,' he gave a pretty amusing answer.

"We'll let the players vote on the captains," he said, "and then we'll decide on how they vote."

If I had to guess, the captain either will be Schroeder, Kristo or Carlson. But I could be wrong.

One other note to pass along -- Gary Thorne, the veteran ESPN broadcaster, will not be calling the games on the NHL Network due to a personal reason. Instead, JP Dellacamera will do the play-by-play alongside analyst Dave Starman and rink-side reporter Fred Pletsch.

Dellacamera is best known for doing play-by-play for six straight soccer World Cups, but he also spent five years broadcasting Atlanta Thrashers games, as well as NHL games on ESPN.

Final U.S. roster
12.23.2009 / 11:40 AM ET

The U.S. just announced its final roster. The last two players cut were defenseman Max Nicastro, a Red Wings prospect, and forward Chris Brown, a 2009 Coyotes draft pick.

Story here on

Canada up, U.S. down
12.23.2009 / 9:35 AM ET

Sorry for the delay, but screaming children don't help the work process.

Anyway, Canada kept rolling through its warm-up games with a 3-0 defeat of Finland last night in Calgary. Taylor Hall went from bad knee to goal scorer, and Alex Pietrangelo and Brandon McMillan also had goals. In goal Martin Jones -- a star with the WHL's hometown Hitmen -- stopped all 17 shots he faced.

"It was a lot of fun to play at home and get a warm welcome and have a good game which was just a bonus," said Jones. "There was nerves either way. My first game for Team Canada, there's always expectations to win. I think playing at home, if anything, helped me get a little more comfortable. I've been in the rink a lot of times so it was a little easier transition for me."

Jordan Eberle also had a pair of assists for Canada.

Hall sat out the last two periods of Sunday's win against Sweden with sore knee. But he said he felt just fine last night.

"The knee was fine tonight," he said. "I was a little unsure before the game how it would feel. When I got into the game, I didn't feel it at all so it shouldn't be problem throughout the tournament."

Canada's final tune-up will come Wednesday against the Czech Republic.

Speaking of the Czechs, they defeated the U.S. last night, 3-2 in a shootout, in Moose Jaw, Sask.

After the Blue Jackets prospect Tomas Kubalick scored in the first for the Czechs, Chris Kreider tied the game in the second. Michal Hlinka put the Czechs back on top late in the second, but Chris Bourque -- like Kreider, a Rangers prospect -- answered in the third.

Hlinka scored the only goal of the shootout, beating Mike Lee on the Czech's first chance. Lee later stopped Jan Kovar. But it didn't matter, as Czech goalie Jakub Sedlacek stopped Philip McRae, Cam Fowler and Derek Stepan

Jack Campbell played the first half of the game in goal, stopping 17 of 18 shots.

"It was a fast-paced game, but I think we got better as it went on," said U.S. coach Dean Blais. "We've got a few days now before the tournament begins to improve our chemistry and focus in on our goal."

Forwards Jerry D'Amigo and Jason Zucker sat out last night's game. Whether they're the final two cuts, or two others get bumped from the U.S. team will be learned later today, when Blais and his staff makes the final cut to get the roster down to 22.

Check back with for a full story after the announcement.

Next year in Buffalo
12.22.2009 / 9:45 PM ET

The 2010 World Juniors haven't even started and we already know two of the teams that will be playing at the 2011 WJC in Buffalo.

Germany and Norway won promotion by winning the two Division I Under-20 tournaments. Germany won a six-team Group A that included host France, Japan, Slovenia, Ukraine and Denmark, who Germany beat in the final game.

Norway emerged from Group B in Poland that included the host country, as well as Croatia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Italy, who Norway beat in the finals to earn promotion.

Getting back to this year's event, Switzerland became the latest team to narrow down its roster. The Swiss went undefeated at the Division I level last year to earn promotion to the main tournament, and they'll have a pretty strong roster this year. Not medal strong, but strong enough where they should be in Buffalo next year.

Most of the players on the Swiss roster play in domestic leagues, but there are a few names that should be familiar to fans on this side of the Atlantic. Defenseman Luca Sbisa, a 2008 first-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers who was one of the key pieces dealt to Anaheim in the Chris Pronger trade, will be on the team. Sbisa was scoreless in eight games with the Ducks this season before being sent back to his junior team, the WHL's Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Also on the team will be Nashville prospect Roman Josi, a 2008 second-round pick now in his third season with SC Bern in the top Swiss league. In 24 games, the 6-foot-1, 198-pound blueliner has 9 goals and 20 points.

Also on the team will be right wing Nino Niederreiter, a top prospect for the 2010 Entry Draft. Niederreiter, in his first North American season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks, leads the league's rookies with 41 points in 37 games. NHL Central Scouting had him No. 6 among WHL skaters in its preliminary rankings, and he will play in next month's CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.

More later following U.S. and Canada exhibition games.

Final acts
12.22.2009 / 4:05 PM ET

Welcome to the Running Back to Saskatoon blog. All the news you'll need to have for the 2010 World Junior Championship can be found here.

Why the name for the blog? Well, this year's tournament will be held in Saskatoon, so we went with the name of a song by Canadian rock band the Guess Who? Kids, if you don't know who the Guess Who? is, ask your parents. Hopefully they can Google it for you.

Anyway, onto the news of the day. And today is a pretty important day, as Canada and the U.S. will have tune-ups as they continue to get ready for the big show, which starts Dec. 26.

Canada will face Finland in Calgary. Taylor Hall, who injured his knee in Sunday's exhibition game against Sweden when he was knocked down in front of the net, will play tonight.

"The padding fell down a little bit and I fell on my bare knee," Hall, a candidate to be the top pick of the 2010 Entry Draft, told the Calgary Sun. "It's a little bruised, a little inflamed, but nothing too serious."

Canada coach Willie Desjardins said had that happened during the WJC, Hall would have played. He also said Martin Jones, who stars for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, would start in goal.

Also playing will be captain Patrice Cormier, who will not be suspended for his vicious elbow that broke the nose of Sweden forward Anton Rodin during Sunday's game. It was one of a number of chippy plays between the teams, which have played in the gold medal game two straight years.

"I haven't heard anything," said Cormier, a New Jersey Devils prospect. "I saw the guy coming and it was a reaction. You never want to hurt anyone out there but it's part of the game and just happened."

While Canada has set its final roster, the U.S. will make its final cuts following tonight's game against the Czech Republic in Moose Jaw, Sask.

The U.S. roster stands at 24, meaning two more players will be spending their New Year's week at home, instead of Saskatchewan.

If Jordan Schroeder makes the team -- and barring injury, it's a near-certainty -- he would become the 19th U.S. player to skate in three WJCs. He also is just six points behind Jeremy Roenick, the top scorer in U.S. WJC history.

Schroder and fellow forwards Tyler Johnson and Danny Kristo are the only holdovers from last year's team that finished fifth in Ottawa.

The U.S. team beat the University of North Dakota in its first exhibition game, 4-2, on Sunday in Grand Forks, N.D. Chris Kreider scored twice and Cam Fowler and Derek Stepan had a pair of assists each. Both Mike Lee and Jack Campbell split time in net, which is likely to happen again tonight.

The team will roll four forward lines tonight -- Schroeder centering Ryan Bourque and Kyle Palmieri; Stepan between Kreider and Kristo; A.J. Jenks centering Philip McRae and Chris Brown; and Johnson between Luke Walker and Jeremy Morin.

The defense pairings will be David Warsofsky and John Carlson; Fowler and Brian Lashoff; Jake Gardiner and John Ramage; and Matt Donovan and Max Nicastro.

We'll be back later with a review of how each team did, and make sure to check back tomorrow for a look at the final U.S. roster.
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