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Goaltending drama hounds Canada, several other teams at World Cup of Hockey training camps

Goaltending drama hounds Canada, several other teams at World Cup of Hockey training camps

Posted by PanamericanWorld on September 06, 2016

Goaltending competitions are front and centre as World Cup of Hockey pre-tournament camps open around the world from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Ottawa.

Canada, the United States and Team Europe are among the teams that could have goaltending drama linger through the start of the World Cup on Sept. 17. The U.S. could turn to a two-time Stanley Cup winner with Olympic experience in the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick, or opt for either Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning or Cory Schneider of the New Jersey Devils.

Canada has a similar embarrassment of riches in net. There is reason to wonder about Sochi Olympics star Carey Price, who hasn’t played a game since November because of a knee injury and is the biggest key to Canada’s success. “He’s 100 per cent, skating, facing pucks, shaking off the rust and he’s excited and ready to go,” Canadian general manager Doug Armstrong said.

If Price isn’t back to his all-world self, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals figures to be the next goalie up, followed by two-time Cup winner Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks. Holtby endorsed Price as the starter if the Montreal Canadiens’ 2015 MVP is healthy, but games Friday and Saturday against the U.S. are worth watching.

“We’re playing back to back right away in exhibition, so we wouldn’t play a goalie back to back in exhibition for sure,” head coach Mike Babcock said. “So there’s going to be opportunities for more than one goaltender.”

There will be an opportunity in goal at Europe’s camp in Quebec City and Montreal after Frederik Andersen was injured in Olympic qualifying for Denmark over the weekend.

The Toronto Maple Leafs announced Andersen will miss three to four weeks with an upper-body injury, meaning New York Islanders goalies Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss will compete to start for the team that’s a mix of players from Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

Team North America, a combination of Americans and Canadians age 23 and under, has a pretty clear-cut goalie picture at the start of camp. A year ago, John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks looked like the no-doubt starter, but then Matt Murray won the Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Jamie Sabau / Getty Images

Jamie Sabau / Getty ImagesMatt Murray will likely start in goal for Team North America at the World Cup.

 

“I would think going in it’s going to be Matt first,” North American GM Peter Chiarelli said. “Just based on his body of work, what he’s done, you can’t ignore that. He’s the lead dog right now, I would think, based on my discussions (with coaches), and I think it’s fairly obvious.”

Finland can’t go wrong with Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins or Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators, and Russia has two strong choices in Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche.

The Czech Republic has a three-way competition between Michal Neuvirth of the Philadelphia Flyers, Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings and Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets, while Sweden will go with Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers in the easiest decision of the World Cup. Lundqvist recently took a puck to the ribs in practice, but should be able to play through it.

Petr David Josek / The Canadian Press

Petr David Josek / The Canadian PressHenrik Lundqvist will start in net for Sweden, in the easiest decision of the World Cup.

 

Here are five other questions to answer in the lead-up to the World Cup:

How crisp will everyone be?

It’s September and over 150 of the best players in the world are being asked to play big-time games right off the bat. “I’m anxious to see how crisp it is,” U.S. defenceman Matt Niskanen said. “Not only are you playing with different teammates and potentially a different system or whatever, there’s going to be a little hesitation in that regard, probably, in the exhibition games.”

Who’s hurt?

With 12 injury replacements announced already, several teams are short-handed and digging into their reserves. If more players are hurt in camp or during exhibition games, it could be harder to convince others to jump right in without the weeks of preparation.

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