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Kings’ Drew Doughty appreciates Canadians’ obsession with hockey’s world junior championships

Kings’ Drew Doughty appreciates Canadians’ obsession with hockey’s world junior championships

Kings defenseman Drew Doughty adjusts his helmet during a game against the Arizona Coyotes.

(Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Before Drew Doughty was drafted second overall by the Kings and helped them win the Stanley Cup twice, before he became one of the NHL’s most durable and best defensemen, he was a kid who was unsure how he’d perform for Team Canada at the 2008 world junior championships.

“It was probably one of the first times I was really under a ton of pressure going out there for every shift,” Doughty said. “The entire nation of Canada is watching that game and they put so much pressure on players, it’s difficult. I played pretty well there and dealt with it pretty well and I think it made me grow as a player.”

Ducks right wing Corey Perry was a member of Canada’s 2005 gold-medal team, considered among the best ever for also sending Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Shea Weber, Brent Seabrook, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Dion Phaneuf to the NHL. For Perry and millions of Canadians, the world junior tournament is an extension of Christmas.

“It’s always been like that. Ever since I was a kid,” he said. “That’s what you do: on Boxing Day you wake up and you watch Team Canada. It’s definitely a tradition. Everybody gets into it and everybody’s rooting for their country.”

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Watching tomorrow’s stars today is a huge attraction for hockey fans everywhere, but nowhere more than in Canada. Last year’s tournament, won by host Canada, drew record TV audiences and created record digital activity for TSN and RDS, which broadcast the tournament and supplement the coverage on their websites.

The current tournament, in Finland, is available to viewers in the United States through Jan. 5 on the NHL Network. It opened Saturday with the U.S. defeating Canada, 4-2, a game that featured likely 2016 No. 1 draft pick Auston Matthews scoring for Team USA late in the third period. Canada came back Monday to rout Denmark, 6-1, and the U.S. was shut out by Sweden, 1-0. Sweden’s goal was scored by Alexander Nylander, who was born in Calgary while his father, Michael, played for the Flames. Linus Soderstrom, a 2014 fourth-round pick by the New York Islanders, earned a 46-save shutout.

The Kings have four prospects in the tournament and the Ducks have three; the Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins each have seven prospects participating. Boston’s David Pastrnak joined the Czech team Monday in time to score in a 2-0 victory over Slovakia.

Doughty said Canadians’ fanaticism might put too much pressure on their players. “I know how young kids are. They want to see what people are saying about them so they’re going to go look at what Bob McKenzie is saying on TSN about them and on and on and on,” he said. “For them I think the best thing to do is just stay away from that stuff. It’s difficult to do but at least it’s not in Canada. That’s a bonus. They can kind of get away from it. They won’t have it on TV 24/7.”

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Doughty’s pick to win? “I’m going to say Canada but I heard they lost,” he said, smiling. “Canada likes to do that — just tease the other teams for a little bit.”

New year, old rivalry

The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens have met 909 times in the regular season and in 34 playoff series, but they’ll experience a new element in their rivalry Friday in the Winter Classic outdoor game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

The Winter Classic has become the NHL’s signature event, giving the league a distinct TV presence on a day dominated by football. Pregame events will feature a women’s professional hockey exhibition Thursday, with the Boston Pride of the U.S.-based National Women’s Hockey League facing the Montreal Canadiennes of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Unfortunately, Boston will be without eight players who are attending the U.S. women’s national team training camp in Minnesota in advance of the 2016 world championships. A spokesman for USA Hockey said the camp was planned long ago and couldn’t be rescheduled.

The NHL also will stage two outdoor Stadium Series games, with the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks playing Feb. 21 at the University of Minnesota and the Colorado Avalanche facing the Detroit Red Wings at Coors Field in Denver on Feb. 27.

Slap shots

Blue Jackets Coach John Tortorella remains unapologetic in criticizing his underachieving team. “We implode,” he told the Columbus Dispatch after a 4-2 loss last Friday. “It’s embarrassing and that’s what we are. . . . I think we’re weak mentally and it’s not the kids. I worry about the kids getting into bad habits by watching other people. That’s frightening to me. That has to change.”

Unusual injury of the week: Colorado goalie Reto Berra hurt his ankle while playing in a hallway soccer game, a popular warmup activity for players. He was expected to be out for about 10 days. . . . The Flames set a team record Sunday with their 11th straight home win. Johnny Gaudreau has 15 goals and 22 points in that span and 29 points at home this season. Overall, the Flames have won nine of 11. . . . Wild assistant coach Darryl Sydor returned behind the team’s bench on Dec. 19. He pleaded guilty to second-degree driving while impaired after being arrested in August, with his 12-year-old son in the car. He spent five weeks at an inpatient treatment center and served time at a workhouse before easing back into his Minnesota duties.

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The Buffalo News reported that Sabres forward Evander Kane is being investigated for a possible sex offense linked to an alleged incident in a downtown hotel room. Kane told the newspaper: “I just want to say I’ve done nothing wrong. I look forward to clearing my name.”

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Twitter: @helenenothelen


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