By Mark Beech
An annotated guide to this morning’s must-read hockey stories:
• QMJHL scoring leader Anthony Mantha scored three times to help Canada trounce Germany 7-2 this morning in the opener of the World Junior Championships. All of Mantha’s goals were set up by linemate Jonathan Drouin, who the Lightning took with the third pick in the 2013 draft. Drouin seems to be over the lingering effects of the concussion he suffered on Dec. 6.
• Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews might grab most of the scoring headlines for the Blackhawks, but don’t ignore the contributions of blueliners Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook. Chicago leads the NHL with an average of 2.87 points per game by their defensemen.
• The honeymoon in Winnipeg appears to be over.
• One upside to the NHL not playing on Dec. 25 is that fans are spared such “treats” as the ghastly sleeved uniforms the NBA made its players wear on Christmas Day. What would be the hockey equivalent to sleeves on basketball jerseys? Maybe long pants. But nobody would be silly enough to go along with that, would they? Oh … Whoops.
• NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has upheld the 15-game suspension of Bruins forward Sean Thornton for his Dec. 7 assault on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik. No surprise, really.
• The Coyotes are in contention for a playoff spot. Their ownership limbo ended earlier this year. But none of that means that the struggling franchise is out of the woods. Phoenix is the only club in the league averaging less than 13,000 fans per game.
• Tim Thomas is back. Again.
• The Flames are 5-4-2 in their last 11 games. One reason has been the improved play of rookie goalies Reto Berra and Karri Ramo, who began the season with the tall order of filling the void left by the retirement of Miikka Kiprusoff.
• Russia hasn’t won a gold medal at the Olympics since 1992, when it played as the Unified Team. Vladimir Putin wants that to change in Sochi.
• Cam Tait of the Edmonton Journal says now that Rogers Sportsnet has invested so heavily in NHL broadcast rights, it needs to revamp its coverage of the league, specifically its “somewhat lame two-man intermission” shows.
• Oilers coach Dallas Eakins has been having it out with disgruntled fans lately. Nothing a little winning won’t cure … but there hasn’t been much of that in Edmonton lately.
• The Senators’ Cory Conacher broke out of a 30-game scoring slump in a 6-0 defeat of Pittsburgh last Monday. He now has three goals and six assists on the season, but thinks it was “meaningful.” We will see.
• Finally, Harrison Mooney has composed a musical ode to Coyotes goalie Mike Smith’s infamous #ButtGoal from last Monday — perhaps the Sabres’ most Sabres-esque moment of a very miserable season. Enjoy!