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Pavs to Czech out Sochi

Frolik to join netminder on country's Oly squad

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Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec will lead his nation into the Olympics and he'll be bringing his best friend and Winnipeg teammate Michael Frolik along for the ride.

Sources in the Czech Hockey Federation have told the Free Press the duo will be named to the Czech Olympic roster barring injury.

Pavelec, according to the same source, is slated to be the No. 1 goalie with Washington Capitals netminder Michal Neuvirth backing up.

Czech stalwart Tomas Vokoun is dealing with blood clots for the second time in his career and the 37-year-old is expected to be unavailable for the Olympics.

Pavelec was a member of the Czech team at the 2010 Olympics and has also represented his team at the 2006 world junior, 2010 World Championship and 2011 World Championship. The Czech's won gold at the 2010 worlds and bronze in 2011.

Frolik played in four world junior tourneys for his country as well as the 2011 world championship.

Jets captain Andrew Ladd remains the only hopeful from his club to make Team Canada. Ladd has had a solid start to his NHL season and remains in the conversation but will likely need an injury to one of the players ahead of him on the left side to get the call.

Evander Kane has not done enough to help his cause and is off the radar for Team Canada.

Defenceman Dustin Byfuglien is still in the picture for Team USA but will need a push to hear his name called. The U.S. aren't deep enough to ignore a talent like Byfuglien but if the coaching staff thinks he's too much of a risk he'll get left home. Byfuglien will likely be in a battle right until the end of December to earn or lose a spot.

Veteran forward Olli Jokinen was on the Finnish summer list and his play this season has likely improved his chances to suit up for his country.

On the world junior scene, the Jets also have a number of prospects with that could find their way to the tournament in Malmo, Sweden.

For Canada, forwards Scott Kosmachuk and Nic Petan will push for spots as will defenceman Josh Morrissey. Goalie Eric Comrie is the favourite to start in goal for Canada.

Defenceman Jan Kostalek will likely earn work for the Czech Republic. Centre Andrew Copp has had a good start to his season at Michigan and has received attention from Team USA.

On the subject of the American squad, don't expect still-eligible defenceman Jacob Trouba to be leaving the Jets to play for his country. NHL teams sometimes send players back to their country's junior team but not in cases such as Trouba's.

Prior to his injury, Trouba was playing well over 20 minutes per game for the Jets and was among their top four defenders.

Impact players don't get assigned to the world junior tournament.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca
Twitter: @garylawless

 

More OT, less shootout

Last week's GM's meetings in Toronto featured a discussion on changing overtime to try to conclude more games prior to the shootout. Lots of hockey people think the shootout has too much of a bearing on playoff races.

Detroit GM Ken Holland has brought forth a concept where overtime would be extended to include a segment of 3-on-3 play. Currently teams play 4-on-4 for five minutes and then go to the shootout if no one scores.

The NHL's hockey operations department is looking at a number of issues and concepts but the basic idea is to play three or four minutes of 4-on-4 and then go to 3-on-3 for the same amount of time.

Issues being discussed are whether to flood the ice, the effect on top end players and what to do if a team is penalized during 3-on-3.

Don't expect a flood as no one wants to extend the length of games. The NHLPA might have an issue with the extra workload on its top players but this idea has traction and the NHL might decide to go forward with a change to overtime with or without the union's blessing.

If a team is penalized during 3-on-3 a penalty shot could be awarded or a player could be added to create a 4-on-3 power play. Also, points scored during overtime would continue to count in the statistics regardless of when they occurred, 4-on-4 or 3-on-3.

The NHL is expected to have something for the GMs to look at during their winter meetings in March.

 

OVIE GREAT BUT NOT GREATEST

Alex Ovechkin scored a pair on Sunday night (including the game-winner) to tie St. Louis Blues forward Alex Steen for the league lead in goals at 17.

Ovechkin is hot scoring four goals in the Caps last three games, which were all wins.

Ovechkin has seven goals and two assists in his last seven games and now has 80 career multi-goal games (620 GP), including four this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only player in the last 20 NHL seasons to reach 80 multi-goal games quicker than Ovechkin was Pavel Bure, who did so in 586 games.

The Capitals have earned at least one point in eight of their last nine games (7-1-1) to climb into first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Ovechkin now has 17 goals and seven assists to sit just two back of Steen and the league lead. The talented Russian, however, is a minus-seven and is the only player in the top-ten scorers who isn't even or better. There's been lots of talk about Ovechkin rounding out his game but the reality is he still cheats offensively and it costs his team.

 

V or TORTS

The Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers traded coaches this off-season and while the early returns favoured John Tortorella and his move West, there is now an argument being made by Alain Vigneault in Manhattan.

The Canucks are now realizing how difficult life is outside of the cozy Northwest Division, which they owned under Vigneault. The Canucks and their 11-8-3 mark find themselves fifth in the much tougher Pacific and would not be a playoff team if the season were to end today.

Vigneault's Rangers started out poorly due to a very-heavy road schedule and some injuries, but have bounced back nicely, winning seven of their last 10 to climb into third spot in the Metro Division with a 10-10-0 mark.

There's lots of hockey to be played and comparing the work of coaches with different teams in different divisions is awkward at best, but at this stage it appears the coaching changes in Vancouver and New York have had little effect on the performance of the teams.

Players win games. Coaches can lose them, but they can't win them.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 19, 2013 D3

History

Updated on Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 8:18 AM CST: adds video

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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