Team Canada played a scrimmage against a team of Canadian university all-stars on Tuesday in Boisbriand, Quebec. TSN's Mark Masters has the latest from junior camp as the first cuts were made.

* When Mathew Barzal saw the news that Dylan Strome had been sent back to the Erie Otters, he immediately grabbed his phone. "I know he was disappointed last year and the day he got sent down I texted him and said, 'We got to win a gold now.'" Like Strome, Barzal was gutted by what transpired last year when Canada finished sixth at the world juniors. "It was just super disappointing last year. This is my last kick at the can, obviously, and there's a lot of guys in there who have the same feeling. I want to win a gold more than anything." Barzal and Strome, two of five returning players, are projected to be Canada's top two centres when the tournament opens on Boxing Day. "I'm coming in with big expectations for myself and trying to be a leader."

* Barzal breaks into a big smile when asked what he thinks of the goal John Tavares scored against the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 8. "I don't know," he said. "It wasn't great. It's not like he danced around like seven guys or something." Barzal shakes his head. "No, it was ridiculous. He does that in practice often, but then he does that in a game and you're like, 'How does that guy even do that?' I can't even think of that. I'm just like, 'Come on! Really?' That's just insane. He's just so skilled. You see in that goal, his body is twisting around and he's doing a 180 and still in such a strong position." Barzal is motivated by last year's quarterfinal loss in Helsinki, but also by his experience in the NHL this season. He played a pair of games for the New York Islanders before being sent down to Seattle in the WHL. While in Brooklyn, Barzal paid close attention to how Tavares carried himself. "He just does everything so hard and so fast. He doesn't take anything for granted. Even in the morning skate, he's trying to score every shot. It's pretty cool to see him out there being the most competitive guy and the hardest worker." What stood out the most about his time in the professional ranks? "Just how hard those guys work. It's hard just getting to the NHL, but once you're there it's even harder. Seeing John Tavares being the hardest working guy in the locker room and older guys like Dennis Seidenberg and Jason Chimera and those guys being in the gym every day and two workouts a day is pretty eye-opening."

* Devils prospect Blake Speers returned to game action on Tuesday for the first time since breaking his wrist on Oct. 27. "Honestly, I felt about as good as I could've pictured it," said Speers. The wrist still isn't as strong as it was before the injury, but the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward feels improvement each day. "It's getting more comfortable shooting. The whole snapping motion is getting a lot better for me. Today was definitely my best day shooting-wise." Speers picked up an assist in Canada's 3-0 win over a team of Canadian university all-stars and impressed head coach Dominque Ducharme. "I don't know if he was 100 per cent, but he looked pretty good for a guy who was coming back from an injury. For me, it was good to see him on the ice, because it was really the first time. He wasn't at the (series against Russia), he wasn't at the summer camp so I wanted to see him and it's good to see the way he reacted and the kind of game he played."

* Pierre-Luc Dubois was among the cuts at last year's Canadian selection camp, but he's a much more confident player this time around. "It's a lot different," the 18-year-old said with a chuckle. "Coming in last year, I was really nervous and didn't want to make any mistakes. This year, I'm just going out and trying to have fun. I'm respecting the system, but when you have the puck that's when you can showcase your skills and your instincts and that's what I'm trying to do and I was really comfortable out there today." Dubois, picked third overall by the Blue Jackets at last June's NHL draft, is considered a safe bet to make this year's Canadian team although he insists he's not taking anything for granted. "It would be a dream come true," he said. "I was close last year and it was really disappointing getting cut, but that would only make it better this time if I could make the team."

* After Tuesday's scrimmage, Team Canada released four players: forwards Nick Merkley, Brett Howden and Austin Wagner as well as defenceman Victor Mete. "It's tough," said Merkley. "My second kick at the can and I came up short. Hopefully I can learn from this." There are 27 players left in camp with five more cuts to be made, likely after Wednesday night's scrimmage against the Czech Republic.