U.S. hopes to make it two in a row
Thursday, 02.18.2010 / 12:00 PM
Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing EditorUSA (1-0-0-0, 3 points) vs. Norway (0-0-1-0, 0 points)
What to watch --
For Norway, all eyes will be on goalie Pal Grotnes, who was brilliant for two periods of the Canada game before leaving with an injury, believed to be leg cramps. If Grotnes is able to go, as he believes he will be, the Norwegians have a puncher's chance. If not, it could be a long afternoon for the Europeans.
For the United States, it will be interesting to see where their chemistry experiment stands. Team USA has only been together for three days and is still trying to find its way when it comes to line combinations and the like. Will a full day of practice set the team right? We should find out early in this game.
: USA beat Switzerland, 3-1; Norway was defeated by Canada, 8-0.
The Norwegians threw a scare into the Canadians for a period on Tuesday by playing a passive forecheck that closed down the neutral zone and blunted Canada's speed. Clearly, they will try to do the same against the Americans. But, such a defense-first style only works if you have a credible ability to counter-attack.
"We'd hoped for the first goal to have a chance in this game," Norwegian coach Roy Johanson said after the Canada loss. "It was a long third period for us."
The Norwegians have not shown that yet in this tournament, although Mats Zuccarello Aasen and Mads Hansen appear to be their most dangerous forwards after the Canada game.
The American fourth line was the team's most dangerous in Tuesday's game. Anaheim's Bobby Ryan scored the game-opening goal in the final minute of the first period to settle down the Americans. Dave Backes of the St. Louis Blues scored on a beautiful end-to-end rush. Ryan Malone, meanwhile, scored on a power-play put back. That means the Americans have no goals yet from their top-six forwards. But, the top trio of Zach Parise, Paul Statsny and Pat Kane did manage a full-third of Team USA's 24 shots. The Americans will also turn back to goalie Ryan Miller, who played very well in the game against Switzerland, despite intermittent work.
"I thought Ryan made the saves we needed him to make," said Wilson.
Total NHL players in game
: Norway: 0. USA: 23
Puck drop --
Don't expect the Americans to take the Norwegians lightly, despite the lopsided scoreline in Norway's game against Canada. The Americans know they need to be hitting on all cylinders come Saturday's showdown against Canada. Norway provides the perfect opportunity to get scorers healthy in a hurry.
"This is the first 60 minutes that these guys have played together and, with that yardstick, I'm pleased with the game," American GM Brian Burke said. "Some of these guys barely know each other. You're not going to get the reading off of each other that you get from units that play together on a regular basis. You're not going to see that, not early in the tournament anyway."
: The Americans find their offensive groove in this game. They don't have the firepower of the Canadians, so they may not put up an eight-spot like their neighbors to the North. But, Team USA will win going away, with the top line driving the bus.
-- Shawn P. Roarke