TSN reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on Team Canada, which held an off-ice workout (game players) and practice (scratches) at the Q Centre in Victoria ahead of tonight’s scrimmage against the U Sports all-stars.
Alex Formenton is undergoing further testing to determine the extent of his right knee injury.
"Alex is upbeat, obviously a little more than he was last night," said Shawn Bullock, Hockey Canada’s director of men’s national teams. "He's in good spirits today and excited to get in for further examination so we know exactly what we're dealing with."
The speedy winger, one of just two returning players at the camp, sustained the injury in overtime of last night's scrimmage. He was spotted on crutches and wearing a knee brace on Thursday.
"That's standard protocol," Bullock said, "to stay off of it until we get all the examinations done."
TSN Hockey insider Bob McKenzie has more on Formenton’s suspected knee sprain and what it means to the team here:
A couple of other injured forwards, Gabe Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan, both skated on Thursday. It was the third straight day on the ice for both Los Angeles Kings prospects.
Vilardi has been dealing with a nagging back issue and has only suited up in four games this season, all on a recent AHL conditioning stint. He was a late scratch over the weekend when he was scheduled to skate in a fifth game.
"It's certainly an injury that he's been dealing with for some time, but I think he's feeling more comfortable," said Bullock. "No timelines on Gabe, to be quite frank with you. We don't know when he'll play. We continue to make sure he feels more comfortable on the ice and is progressing in the right direction."
Vilardi wore a regular red sweater and took part in drills with the other players at practice on Thursday.
Anderson-Dolan, who broke his wrist in a game with Spokane on Oct. 27, did some light shooting while wearing a blue no-contact sweater.
"We just want to make sure we're a little more cautious with that one," Bullock explained. "Obviously, it's a little bit tender ... The first day was stick-handling, second day was stick-handling, passing and today was getting into a little bit of shooting."
Michael "Mikey" DiPietro appears to be the early frontrunner in the race to be Canada’s starting goalie on Boxing Day. A final cut at the selection camp last year, Hockey Canada helped DiPietro prepare for this moment by inviting him to the senior World Championship last spring as the third goalie. While in Denmark he roomed with then Maple Leafs back-up Curtis McElhinney. The veteran netminder offered some insight on what it takes to handle the pressure of a hockey-mad market.
"Sometimes you can see yourself reading into a lot of things and kind of forgetting just to play so, for myself, it’s just focusing on my game and the ice and try to block out the outside noise and he definitely gave me strategies for that," DiPietro said. "Obviously, limiting social media. I did it by deleting Instagram and I just have Twitter and I really don’t go on it during the camp and throughout tournament."
McElhinney thrived as Toronto’s backup goalie last season despite making almost all his starts on the second night of a back-to-back set. The struggle to stay sharp at all times is something he spoke to DiPietro about. For example, McElhinney replaced Frederik Andersen early in Game 2 of last season's playoff series against Boston after the Bruins got off to a quick start at TD Garden.
"That was a tough situation and he kind of battled through it," DiPietro said. "That’s all you can really do is take it one puck at a time and that’s something he does really well in his game and that’s something I can translate into my game and build on."
DiPietro has strong numbers this season with a 12-7-1 record and .922 save percentage, but his main competition in camp has been even better. Prince Albert’s Ian Scott leads the WHL with a 23-2-1 record and .943 save percentage.
Scott, an unsigned Maple Leafs draft pick, played one game in the AHL with the Marlies last season on a tryout and was able to stay with the team throughout its Calder Cup run. Scott describes that as "huge for my development" and he remains in touch with the goaltending battery of Leafs backup Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard, now with the Arizona Coyotes. In fact, they spoke recently. Did the World Juniors come up?
"No, not World-Junior related," he said before smiling sheepishly, "just about my goal."
That’s right, things are going so well for Scott this season he actually chipped in on offence scoring into an empty net.
"Actually when I was there (with the Marlies), the first game I watched, Pickard went for the empty net and he missed. I told him I remembered that," Scott said with a chuckle.
So, what did he see on his goal?
“Kind of a blur, to be honest. I tried it the day before and it went too high and hit the scoreboard so I was joking around with my coach before the next game and I said, 'Maybe it just has to be a bullet through the middle of the ice,' and it worked."
Scott wasn’t invited to Canada's summer camp for World Junior hopefuls, but has made big strides since attending the 2017 Program of Excellence goalie camp.
"I'm a lot calmer in the net," the six-foot-three Calgary native explained, "a little more confident too. Just confident with the base of my game that I can always resort back to. If things get a little bit tough I’m able to regroup and go back to what I feel comfortable with and build from there again."
What’s the base of his game?
"Just making sure I’m relaxed and big. If I’m playing big, my confidence level goes up from there and I think just being attached to the game too. Making sure I’m talking to my D and getting out for pucks and stuff like that."
Scott will get a big test tonight as he's slated to play the full scrimmage for the U Sports team.
Jack Studnicka was the big offensive star in the first scrimmage against the U Sports all-stars on Wednesday potting a pair of goals. With Patrice Bergeron banged up, the Bruins prospect got a chance to play on a line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak during the NHL pre-season.
"On and off the ice the way they prepare for games is unbelievable," he gushed. "You really, it’s kind of weird, but you’re watching them 24/7 and try to pick up things they do."
Anything surprise him?
"Pasta – when he’s not going (well) he squats before the game and I’ve never really heard about that. It’s light, but just something to get his legs going. So, if I feel like my legs aren’t going I’ll maybe throw a couple weights on the rack and do some squats."
Studnicka was among the standouts at the summer camp doing a good job against Jack Hughes and the top American line in the final game.
"Definitely the Showcase gives me some confidence," he said. "I was trusted to play against such high-skill players. So, confidence was built there and trying to bring it in here."
Studnicka will get another big chance to impress the coaching staff tonight as he is one of seven forwards playing for the second straight day.
Projected Team Canada lineup for Thursday's scrimmage against U Sports all-stars:
Scratches: Formenton (knee), Suzuki, Leason, Vilardi (back), Anderson-Dolan (wrist), Lafrenière, Bowers
Scratches: Smith, Dobson, Beaudin, Bernard-Docker, McIssac
Canada goalies: DiPietro, Villalta
U Sports goalie: Scott