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Olympic sights we don't want to see

Tuesday, 02.09.2010 / 1:01 PM / Columns

By Paul Kukla - NHL.com Correspondent

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Olympic sights we don't want to see
The Olympics presents an interesting dilemma for a hockey fan -- root for your country, or the players from your team.
Sometime in the not-too-distant future -- Team USA playing Team Sweden. The U.S. defender sees an opportunity to make a big hit on the Swedish forward, he charges hard and just as he is about to make a big, open ice hit, Brian Rafalski pulls up before he catches Henrik Zetterberg with his head down.

Whew or boo? Two teammates playing against each other on the world's stage. It doesn't get any bigger than this, but I am glad the hit wasn't made.

You too? We could repeat the same scenario with different players -- Sergei Gonchar vs. Sidney Crosby or Ryan Kesler against Henrik or Daniel Sedin, the list of players can go on and on.

The last thing we as hockey fans want to see is an injury to any player during the Olympics. And we don't even want to think about a player injuring an NHL teammate who is now on an opposing team while the games are being played with a gold medal on the line.

But it could happen and I could not even imagine what the ramifications would be. So let's just hope this worrisome possibility is avoided and all the players involved make it through the Olympics free of injury, thus remaining healthy for the stretch run of the NHL regular season.

This is no break -- After the final horn sounds on Sunday, Feb. 14th, the NHL basically shuts down for two weeks until NHL games start again on March 1. But that doesn't mean our hockey thoughts will stop.

We will start planning trades that need to be made, we will be breaking down the remaining NHL schedule, trying to decipher how many points our team needs to make the playoffs.

Thoughts will turn to the players involved in the Olympics. Will they be able to return to their NHL teams with a full tank and we also hope the players who had some much needed R&R can carry the team into the second season.

Most of us will be glued to the TV watching the Olympic hockey action, but in the back of our minds, we will be thinking about the 20 or so games remaining, 20 games that can make or break the season.

We will have time to have our dream run wild, can we make the playoffs or we will be watching from the outside. We will soon have those answers, but our attention will turn to Vancouver.

I don't care if it is Belarus playing Latvia, I will be watching every hockey game during the Olympics. You never know when you will see an outstanding play or your mind may wander and you will question why your NHL team doesn't go after an unnamed player that catches your eye during these games.

Then, when the tournament moves into the medal-round games, our national pride will take hold. Our pride will come through loud and clear and it will be a great scene in Vancouver with all the flag waving, painted faces and chants in a language we may not understand.

But there is one thing all nations understand, only one team can win the gold and that country will be the toast of the hockey world. Who will it be? We are about to find out and the build-up is about to begin.

Enjoy this Olympic event and who knows, it may be the last one we witness that involves NHL players.

One more thing before I leave you, Ryan Miller get some rest. The weight of a country is about to be placed on your shoulders.

Any questions or comments? Feel free to email me at pk@kuklaskorner.com or follow me on Twitter.
Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie