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McKenzie: Canada junior team could get some NHL assistance

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Bob McKenzie
11/29/2011 9:58:26 AM
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There are no guarantees by any means, but a little NHL assistance is not out of the question for Canada's national junior team this year.

That isn't to suggest the Edmonton Oilers will release Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or the Philadelphia Flyers will part with Sean Couturier, because they won't.

And Ryan Johansen of the Columbus Blue Jackets would be in the same category.

Boston's Tyler Seguin and Carolina's Jeff Skinner are, technically, still eligible for the tournament - but don't even go there.

But there is most certainly a chance that the Anaheim Ducks could loan winger Devante Smith-Pelly in time for the final evaluation camp that opens Dec. 10. He's probably the best bet. And Smith-Pelly was a force at the summer evaluation camp.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will at least consider the situation involving winger Brett Connolly, but at this time, he's playing well and they have no one to replace him if they did decide to loan him out. So they'll wait to see where they're at in 10 days.

The Florida Panther haven't ruled out defenceman Erik Gudbranson - at least not yet. So that's another call to be made closer to the beginning of camp.

In the meantime, Team Canada will be mostly hoping some key players return fully to good health.

Winger Jonathan Huberdeau of the Saint John Sea Dogs is a lock to be on the team, but the fractured bone in his foot is still probably another two weeks away from being fully healed, which would make him touch and go for the start of the final camp.

But the key date for Huberdeau is that he's ready to play in the pre-tournament games the week before Christmas.

Defenceman Ryan Murray of the Everett Silvertips is another anticipated lock for Team Canada, but hasn't played for weeks because of the dreaded high ankle sprain. Murray has, however, been skating for the past 10 days. He's not likely to play any games between now and the Dec. 10th opening of Team Canada's camp,

But as long as there are no setbacks, he's expected to be ready to go for that and, again, Team Canada just wants to make sure he's 100 per cent by the week before Christmas.

Devante Smith-Pelly (Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
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