Notes From the World Cup of Hockey
Injuries are grabbing the headlines as the World Cup of Hockey gears up. The pre-tournament games are being played through Sept. 14, with group play starting Sept. 17. Here are notes from the camps, which could sway your World Cup of Hockey betting:
Some of the injury absences are cautionary for players looking ahead to the NHL season, while others may actually have implications for the NHL season.
TEAM EUROPE will be missing Toronto goalie Frederick Anderssen, suffering an upper body injury which may keep him out of action for three to four weeks. Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss of the New York Islanders are now competing to start.
TEAM SWEDEN has lost captain Henrik Zetterberg, goalie Robin Lehner, defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forward Alexander Steen. But defenseman Anton Stralman says he's OK after rehabbing a broken leg he got in March, and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was on the ice after taking a puck to the ribs in practice.
TEAM CZECH REPUBLIC won't have the services of David Krejci, Tomas Hertl and Radko Gudas. Hertl, probably the biggest absence, is still recovering from his injury as a player for San Jose in the Stanley Cup Championship.
TEAM CANADA has had to replace two-time Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith, former league scoring champ Jamie Benn and two-time Stanley Cup champ Jeff Carter. So they brought in former Hart Trophy winner, Corey Perry, and last year's leading point producer in the playoffs, Logan Couture, along with former Olympian Jay Bouwmeester.
TEAM NORTH AMERICA is missing Sean Monahan. Jonathan Drouin was banged up by being checked into an open door in practice, but says he's fine.
TEAM USA lost Ryan Callahan, who is still recovering from off season hip surgery.
There's still a lot of depth and talent for most of these teams - No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews is listed as the 13th forward for the 23 and unders from Team North America. But don't expect them to bang it up like they would in the NHL playoffs.
Watch Out for These
A couple of teams stand out as darkhorses in this competition. Not that either of them will win the whole shabang, but they could advance and win more games than expected.
One is Team Europe. They're the team of mix and match "also-rans" who didn't make the Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic or Russia teams of the Euro contingent. You can bet they'll want to prove their worth as players who belong.
The other is the age 23 and under group from team North America. We know they are talented and will have the speed to match with anyone else. If they bring all of their energy, look for "Miracle on Ice" type results.
There are a lot of in-house rivalries among the Team Canada bunch. There are four San Jose Sharks and two LA Kings who carry some bad blood from their Pacific Division matchups, and last year's playoffs were bitter. They seem good together for this. Corey Perry and Shea Weber had an on-ice collision last year in which Perry was smashed into the ice. That was in Game 5 of the Anaheim Ducks-Nashville Predators playoff series. They'll wait until cold weather to settle that. And wasn't it the Stanley Cup finals between the Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins that Logan Couture called Sidney Crosby a cheater on faceoffs? All's OK for now. Like they say in hockey, "it's all pert o' da geme."
Team USA coach John Tortorella says he'll bench any of his Team USA players that sit for the National Anthem. Since Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand for the National Anthem in football, I guess this will be an issue in every sport in every game in America this year. But, really, when you represent your country in an event, respect is called for.
I'm seeing Team Russia as having the best starting line of any in the competition. The Russians may not have the depth or defense, but with the starting line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nikita Kucherov, they'll come out firing. Russia could advance by winning every game by 6-5 scores. They'll demand over-sized totals throughout.
World Cup of Hockey Betting
Two weeks ago, I was thinking Sweden was the top outsider pick in World Cup of Hockey betting odds. But now I'm thinking that youth is more of a factor than I projected. That's why I'm looking closely at Team North America as a longshot. They're +1200 in the futures. Canada is holding as the +110 favorite, which is fair. And watch for the totals in Sweden (under) and Russia (over) games.
The pre-tournament games are being played at various sites through Sept. 14. Interesting games between Canada and USA will be on Friday and Saturday. Team Europe v. Team North America on Sunday should make for another one worth attention. Group play begins in Toronto on Sept. 17.
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