Bozak torn between loyalties to Canada, linemates

Thursday, 02.20.2014 / 2:26 AM NHL.com

If it's possible to have too much rooting interest, Tyler Bozak might find himself in that situation Friday.

The Toronto Maple Leafs center will watch the semifinal game between Canada and the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics (noon ET, NBCSN, CBC) knowing NHL linemates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk could lead the Americans to a win against his home country.

"I've got my two wingers on U.S. and I'm Canadian," Bozak said Wednesday when the Maple Leafs returned to practice. "I guess I'm cheering for both; I just hope Phil and JVR play really well and maybe Canada wins, I don't know."

Kessel leads the tournament with five goals and eight points. Van Riemsdyk has a tournament-high four assists. It's a continuation of their season with Toronto, when the pair combined for 55 goals (31 by Kessel) and 57 assists.

"Both players were playing very well here, and they just have been able to carry that on over there," Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle told the team website. "It seems like they have a good fit with [Joe] Pavelski in the middle, and Pavelski and Bozak are similar players."

Bozak rejoined Toronto's top line when he returned from injury Dec. 29. He said he's not surprised by what Kessel has shown in Russia.

"We all believe that he's able to do it in here," Bozak said. "Who knows what other people think outside of our locker room, but we believe in him to be one of the best players in the League, and he's proving it yet again."

Bozak, a native of Regina, Saskatchewan, is one of 20 Canadian-born players on the Maple Leafs roster, yet none is playing in the Olympics. Kessel, van Riemsdyk and forward Nikolai Kulemin (Russia) are the Toronto players who competed in Sochi.

"I wish our players all the success in the world, and I think it's important for us never to lose sight of the fact that you're part of a team, but again, I am Canadian," said Carlyle, from Sudbury, Ontario. "So there are things pulling at your heart strings in different directions, that's for sure."

Bozak will have his pulled more than most.

"It's going to be an exciting game to watch, for sure," he said. "I really can't make any predictions; I don't know, the U.S. has been playing great, Canada's kind of snuck by with a few wins, but every game is different, and it should be a fun one to watch."

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