Oilers’ Hall doesn’t like Olympic chances

Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall.

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OILERS’ HALL DOESN’T LIKE OLYMPIC CHANCES

The Edmonton Journal asserts Oilers left-winger Taylor Hall is convinced he will not be named to Team Canada next week for the Sochi Olympics.

Hall noted his improved defensive play, but also mentioned he sees “a lot of really good players” against whom he’s competing and “there’s no mention of me” when he sees the TV pundits discussing Team Canada.

“I do think I deserve to be up there with those other names,” Hall said, “but it’s out of my control at this point. I’m just going to keep playing well … . Sometimes you just have to ride the momentum and keep doing the things that are making you successful and, right now, that’s playing a simple game, a good defensive game.

“It’s been fun lately.”

Oilers bench boss Dallas Eakins had high praise for his star winger.

“The way he competes every night has been a breath of fresh air on a lot of difficult nights,” Eakins said. “(Tuesday) night, I thought we saw it again where, after a real tough first period for our team, he put us on his shoulders and started to carry us. And it rubs off on guys.

“I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the (Olympic team) process, but I’m sure if you compare him to the left-wingers he’s up against, I’m not sure how you don’t take him.”

COUNT BLACKHAWKS’ KANE AMONG OKPOSO’S FANS

Newsday outlines how Islanders winger Kyle Okposo was a class act in dealing with his omission from Team USA’s roster Wednesday.

Here’s what Blackhawks star winger Patrick Kane had to offer on the subject.

“I think he’s a great player,” Kane said Thursday morning. “I’ve known him since I was 13, 14 years old and he was one of the most dominant players back then, at our age level. Still, to this day, he’s just a man, the way his body is built and how strong he is on the puck. He has got a lot of talent, too. He’s had a great year. I don’t think he should feel any shame of being left off the team. That just speaks to the depth of American hockey these days.”

The New York Islanders beat the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 in overtime Thursday night. Who scored the OT winner? You guessed it. One Kyle Okposo.

TEAM RUSSIA TO PAIR MALKIN, OVECHKIN?

Interesting Team Russia note via The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Penguins superstar Evgeni Malkin said Russia’s plan for him at the Olympics possibly has changed. He said he believes there is a strong likelihood that winger Alex Ovechkin will be one of his wingers. Malkin said he originally expected to have his best friend, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nikolai Kulemin, on his left wing. They played together for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL during the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

Ovechkin has been playing the right side since last season, but may go back to the left side for Russia.

TIPPETT: COYOTES’ YANDLE HAS IMPROVED DEFENSIVELY

The Arizona Republic indicates that when asked if he’d read the intense behind-the-scenes building of Team USA stories making the rounds, Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle said, “I read it. Affect me? No. Obviously people have opinions. If you ask me my opinion on something, you’re going to get an opinion. I’m trying to play to win games for my team and be here. I try not to pay attention to that stuff.”

Yandle has made an effort to improve his play in his own end, and the Coyotes have certainly noticed a change.

“He really has made a conscious effort to be a player that can play in all three zones,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “I give him a ton of credit because he really has worked hard at it, and his game has really improved. The offensive side of his game hasn’t dropped off one bit, but the defending part has gotten much better.”

FLYERS’ HOLMGREN: MASON CONTRACT COULD TAKE AWHILE

The Philadelphia Daily News details how now that January 1 has passed, the Flyers and RFA-to-be Steve Mason – who has been the Flyers’ unequivocal MVP this season – are free to agree on a new contract.

“We’ve had some conversations,” Flyers GM Holmgren said this week. “Nothing really in-depth to this point. I don’t really want to get into anything through the media. I’ll just talk to (agent Anton Thun) when the time comes to see what we can come up with.”

When asked if this is a negotiation that could take some time, Holmgren said: “Yeah. It could.”

Mason reiterates he wants to remain a Flyer and emphasized his great relationship with goaltending coach Jeff Reese. Mason prefers to be left in the dark, told only when a deal is close. He hadn’t heard anything this week.

“We’ll see what happens,” Mason said. “If something happens, great. If something is going to get done, I’d prefer it to be a short process, that way it’s not dragging on. At the end of the day, that’s not really my choice.”

DEVILS’ SCHNEIDER WORKING ON PUCK-HANDLING SKILLS

The Star-Ledger points out that while the New Jersey Devils’ system is fashioned around Martin Brodeur’s excellent puck-handling abilities, they can’t have an entirely different system for Cory Schneider. Consequently, he has handled the puck more this season than ever before.

“I’m not quite at his level yet, but I’m working on it and so far I think it’s been pretty clean,” Schneider said. “It’s a good skill to have. It’s something I’ve tried to work on. It’s not something that’s just natural and instinctive like Marty can play it. I’m trying to develop that part of my game.

“Any time you can help your teammates out and get it out of your zone quicker, the way Marty handles it he probably saves himself 4-5 shots a game just by not spending extra time in his end. If I can get to that level it would make life easier for everybody.”

HUBERDEAU GOING THROUGH SOPHOMORE SLUMP

The Sun-Sentinel notes Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau is mired in a sophomore slump with just four points over his last 18 games.

“It’s hard when you can’t complete any, don’t score or do anything to help the team, so it’s hard to have fun sometimes,” said Huberdeau. “It’s your work, but at the same time it’s your passion and you love it, so of course, I’ve got to bring some joy to the rink. It’s not easy. I’m at home thinking about it.

“I’ve just got to find a way to get things going. For sure, it hasn’t been the season I was expecting to have.”

Rookie Nick Bjustad on his teammate: “He was kind of under the radar last year and now they’re marking his name on the board before the game, I guarantee it. Thinking of ways to stop him by putting a big body on him because he’s such a skilled player.

“He’s a star either way and he’ll find a way to rise to the occasion.”

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