Halak, Europe eye another victory in Canada

Halak, Europe eye another win in Canada

Injuries limited the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak to 36 games last year. Still, the veteran goalie looked anything but rusty in the World Cup of Hockey opener.

Serving as Team Europe’s No. 1 option between the pipes, Halak stopped all 35 shots he faced in ­Saturday’s 3-0 win over the United States. Marian Gaborik, Leon Draisaitl and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored on U.S. netminder Jonathan Quick, who finished with 14 saves.

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Halak’s crew didn’t necessarily create goal-mouth chances galore. Nevertheless, it performed markedly better than the squad that suffered blowout losses to the 23-and-under Team North America in exhibition action. As a result, handicappers at online sports book Bovada.lv like Europe to knock off the Czech Republic several hours from now.

With only two tilts left in the preliminary round, Ralph Krueger’s troops find themselves in a very advantageous position. The roster features well-rounded players from Denmark, Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Switzerland, Slovakia, Norway and France. Gaborik and Anze Kopitar are the undisputed offensive catalysts, though, along with Marian Hossa and Tomas Vanek.

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Having displayed razor-sharp in his first real test since March 8, Halak seems primed for another superior showing at Air Canada Centre. Yet Krueger probably wants Zdeno Chara and Roman Josi to help curtail the opposition’s scoring chances this time around. We, too, expect a tighter-checking affair as the tournament heats up in Toronto.

MONDAY INTERNATIONAL FREE PICK: EUROPE/CZECH REPUBLIC UNDER 5.5 GOALS

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