If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' left shoulder checks out, expect the 19-year-old from Burnaby, B.C., to play for Team Canada at the world under-20 championship in Russia later this month.
Nugent-Hopkins left the Oklahoma City Barons over the weekend to take advantage of the AHL team's week-long break to get his shoulder examined in Edmonton this week. He claims the shoulder isn't injured, but that it just doesn't feel 100 per cent.
The teenager has said all along that if the NHL lockout, now in its 79th day, continues, he wants suit up for Canada at the world juniors in Ufa, Russia, from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5. His name will be on the 35-plus player Canadian junior selection camp invite list that will be announced on Monday. Canada's selection camp will be held in Calgary on Dec. 10-15.
But Nugent-Hopkins' shoulder will need to be deemed completely healthy by the Edmonton Oilers after an MRI exam before he's allowed to attend Canada's camp.
With the Barons, Nugent-Hopkins has eight goals and 20 points in 19 games, tying him for 10th in the AHL scoring race. However, he hasn't registered a point in his last three games.
Nugent-Hopkins has missed only one game this season after taking a stick in his mouth in a game against Houston on Nov. 2.
Nugent-Hopkins has never played for Canada at the world juniors, but he did suit up for Canada at the world championship last spring, when he scored four times and assisted on two other goals in eight games.
Richardson making his mark
The season has been rolling along nicely for the Binghamton Senators and their rookie head coach Luke Richardson. The Ottawa Senators farm club scored an impressive 5-2 win at home over the Eastern Conference-leading Syracuse Crunch on Sunday to push their win streak to eight games.
The Senators have moved to within two points of the Crunch for the Eastern Conference lead, but Binghamton has played two fewer games and has the best win percentage at .722 (12-4-2) in the conference.
The Senators have been getting strong goaltending from Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop. Andre Benoit (seven goals) and Tyler Eckford (five goals) are providing offence from the blue-line. Swedish rookie Jakob Silfverberg keeps getting better and better.
The Senators' penalty kill is 77 for 87, fourth best in the AHL, with a league-leading seven shorthanded goals. They also have been dynamite in the first period. They have outscored the opposition 19-11 in the opening 20 minutes and have an 11-1-2 record when leading or tied after the first period.
A win at home against Portland on Friday will give the Senators the longest win streak of this young AHL season.
Heat is on in Abbotsford
While Richardson and the Senators have the best win percentage in the East, the Western Conference-leading Abbotsford Heat has the best record in the entire AHL through the quarter pole at 13-3-4.
Under head coach Troy Ward, the Heat set a franchise season record with 42 wins last year, but were eliminated in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs in five games by the Western Conference champion Toronto Marlies.
This season, the Calgary Flames affiliate has been the stingiest in the AHL and has the league's best penalty-killing unit, which has allowed only seven goals.
The Heat have surrendered only 36 goals in 20 games. Led by Curtis McElhinney's franchise-tying record five shutouts, the next best have been the Springfield Falcons at 42 goals against.
Heat goalie Barry Brust has three shutouts, while Danny Taylor has two and they are first and third, respectively, in goals against average.
Top active coaches
Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins won his 126th game on Sunday to pass Marc Crawford and become the franchise's second-most winningest since the mid-1980's. Paul Gardner leads during this period at 130.
Here are the AHL's Top 10 active coaches in wins:
1. Roy Sommer, Worcester, 520
2. Mark Morris, Manchester, 263
3. Trent Yawney, Norfolk, 220
4. Ken Gernander, Connecticut, 217
5. Dave Allison, Peoria, 2056
6. Scott Arniel, Chicago, 190
7. Jeff Daniels, Charlotte, 170
8. Mark French, Hershey, 153
9. Dallas Eakins, Toronto, 126
10. Ray Edwards, Portland, 116
With the football season winding down and the NHL lockout continuing, the AHL will likely see attendance pick up. But so far, the league is slightly below last year's average crowd of 5,638 with 5,313 fans showing up per game this season.
Here are the Top 5 in attendance and the affiliates of the seven Canadian NHL clubs:
1. Hershey (Washington), 8,976
2. Hamilton (Montreal), 7,413
3. Providence (Boston), 7,299
4. Lake Erie (Colorado), 7,256
5. Grand Rapids (Detroit), 6,965
7. Chicago (Vancouver), 6,677
10. St. John's (Winnipeg), 6,287
11. Toronto (Toronto), 6,199
19. Abbotsford (Calgary), 4,427
27. Binghamton (Ottawa), 3,506
29. Oklahoma City (Edmonton), 3,387
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