A Hockey Filled Saturday

World Junior Championships - Canada / Sweden

The Canadian World Junior team looks to put together a better effort in their final pretournament game against Sweden this morning at 9 a.m. (TSN). The Canadians were out of whack in a 3-2 loss to Finland in exhibition #1 as they adjusted to the bigger ice surface and European refereeing, contributing factors to their nine minor penalties and the two costly five on threes against.

On the other hand, the Finns may surprise if the exhibitions are an indication; they pumped Team USA this morning and finished their primers with two wins over Canada and the US. Top rounds picks Teuvo Teräväinen, Markus Granlund and Olli Maata and projected first rounders in 2013 Aleksander Barkov (top 5), Arturri Lehkonen and Rasmus Ristolainen form a nucleus with high pedigree. On the upside, the big loss by the Americans with John Gibson in net could mean the Leafs‘ Garret Sparks gets the nod to start the tournament.

In the Canadian net, Malcolm Subban will make way for Owen Sound goaltender Jordan Binnington. After a just-ok selection camp according to reports, Subban’s less than convinving showing against the Fins could mean a good performance from Binnington makes him the starter for the first round robin game on Boxing Day.

In other lineup changes, the Habs’ fifth round pick last draft, Charles Hudon, is out for the tourney after injuring his back, and will be replaced by the bigger, year-older Mark McNeil, a Blackhawks first round pick in 2011 out of Prince Albert. Brett Ritchie is banged up too and is likely to miss today’s game, but should be ready for Boxing Day.

The Canadians will get 2011 third overall pick Jonathan Huberdeau back from suspension.

The Leafs‘ Morgan Rielly is expected to shift onto a pairing with Xavier Oulette, the Wings’ second round pick from 2011, after playing with Dougie Hamilton last game. According to TSN, head coach Steve Spott is making the move to help out Oulette as he nurses an ankle injury; seemingly, that’s a nice reflection of what Spott thinks of Rielly’s abilities.

Be sure to keep an eye out for #7 on Sweden – defenseman Tom Nilsson, the Leafs‘ fourth round pick in 2011.

In Marlies action later this afternoon (3 p.m.), Toronto looks to make it seven of their last nine with a win against the Saint John’s Ice Caps. The Marlies hot play as of late puts them in a position to pull into a tie with the Abbotsford Heat for the North Division lead and second place in the West. The Marlies sit two points back with a game in hand and the Heat are slumping at 3-5-1-1 in their last ten.

The Marlies defeated the Rampage 4-1 last night, with Ben Scrivens picking up the win and Carter Ashton scoring the game winner. Ryan Hamilton’s first period goal, his 11th of the season, was his 75th as a Marlie, giving him the distinction of being the highest scoring Marlie of all time (previous record holder was Jeremy Williams). Hamilton has a three game goal streak going. Defensemen Paul Ranger and Mike Kostka padded the lead with goals three and four.

Anthony Petrielli will be covering today’s game at the Ricoh and should have some thoughts posted later on.