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Destination: Vancouver

Monday, 02.22.2010 / 10:10 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By NHL.com Staff

It's on: Canada vs. U.S.
2.22.2010 / 10:11 PM

Tonight is Haley Irwin's night.

After registering a goal and four shots in the first period, she came out blazing in the third. A nice toe-drag around a Finnish defender resulted in a hard shot rung off the crossbar, but she kept at it. Digging the puck out of the corner, she got it to the front of the net and eventually banked in a rebound off the goaltender from the right side of the net at 4:23 of the third.

Irwin celebrated with a fist pump, as she gave Canada some extra breathing room.

Finland picked up the pace with just over 10 minutes gone in the third, putting some easy wrist shots on Canadian goaltender Shannon Szabados who had yet to be fully tested. A few Canadian mistakes resulted in a few Finish chances, but nothing Szabados, who has faced Major Junior and current NHL players' shots throughout her career, couldn't handle.

Finland's goaltender, Naty, continued to get some help from her posts as Hayley Wickenheiser was sent in alone, beating the keeper, but not the post – the Canadians' third shot off the iron tonight.

Caroline Ouellette took a nice cross-crease pass from Marie-Philip Poulin to score Canada's final goal at 18:57 of the third period.

Canada peppered Finland with 50 shots and scored five goals, setting the stage for an epic battle with Team USA on Thursday in an Olympic gold-medal rematch eight years in the making.

It'll be a good one!

-- Jennifer Raimondi

Twenty minutes away from the finals
2.22.2010 / 9:31 PM

The second period started out with back-and-forth action. Finland was putting the pressure on the Canadians before Linda Valimaki took a hooking penalty at 3:31, which gave Canada a little bit of life.

But Finnish goaltender Noora Raty, kept her team in the game, stopping a Gina Kingsbury one-timer, back-to-back pads save on a Meaghan Mikkelson point shot and a Sarah Vaillancourt wrister, not to mention a nifty shorthanded give-and-go between Caroline Ouellette and Marie-Philip Poulin.

It wasn't until the 16:42 mark that Canada finally solved Raty, when Meghan Agosta scored her ninth of the tournament to make it 3-0. With Tessa Bonhomme and Jayna Hefford going hard to the net, there was nothing Raty could do as Agosta trailed the play to find an open net.

Agosta's goal set a new mark for most goals in a single tournament, surpassing Canadian star Danielle Goyette, who scored eight in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.
 
After two periods, the Finns are still very much in the game. Meanwhile, with 32 shots already on the board, Canada wouldn't mind scoring a couple more.

-- Jennifer Raimondi

Canada goes up by a pair
2.22.2010 / 8:43 PM

It was the youngsters, Rebecca Johnston, Sarah Vaillancourt and Hailey Irwin who took the first shift, complete with toe-drags and blistering speed.

But it was veteran Cherie Piper who put Canada on the board early in the game.

Piper took a nice cross-ice feed from Meghan Agosta and one-timed it past Finnish goaltender Noora Raty at 14:38 of the first period – her fifth of the tournament.

Not to be outdone, it was Irwin that banged home a rebound sitting at the left post. Johnston and Tessa Bonhomme had a nice takeover play at the top of the circle that resulted in a hard shot that Raty couldn't handle. Irwin scored with 5:24 to go in the period and just as Finland's penalty had expired.

The shots were 15-2 and the play was mostly carried by the Canadians, but Finland, especially on two power-play opportunities, showed that it has the speed to put Canada back on the defensive.

Canada takes a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

-- Jennifer Raimondi

Canadians at home, but Finns ready
2.22.2010 / 7:53 PM

As Canada hit the ice for warm-ups there was no question who the crowd would be cheering for in the second women’s semi-final game at Canada Hockey Place. Canadian fans had taken Sweden’s side during the first match against the U.s., often starting ‘Go Sweden Go’ chants -- hoping for an upset would. That won’t be the case for the second game. 

The Canadian women, taking on third ranked Team Finland , will look to build on a dominant round robin appearance; a win tonight would give them a shot at their third straight Olympic gold medal.

But one shouldn’t overlook the Finns. With goaltender Noora Raty between the pipes anything is possible. Team Finland’s only blunder in the round robin play was a hard fought 6-0 loss to the U.S., otherwise they showed their strength defeating Russia 5-1 and China 2-1.

The Canadians were the last to leave the ice after warm-ups, Marie-Philip Poulin, Caroline Ouellette and back-up goaltender Kim St-Pierre playfully passing the puck around and looking very loose and confident -- a Poulin fall, she tripped on her teammates stick, even elicited giggles from the trio.

Four years in the making and a lot of hard work in between, both teams will undoubtedly be ready to go when the puck drops.

-- Jennifer Raimondi

Team USA cruises to gold-medal game

2.22.2010 / 5:41 PM

With the script written well before the third period started, the U.S. continued to show just why they will be a force to be reckoned with in the gold medal game.
 
Thwarted by Martin on two breakaways, one a minute in by Hilary Knight and the second less than two minutes later by Kelli Stack, the U.S. scored their sixth goal -- it was Monique Lamoureux's second of the game.
 
With the next goal, the U.S. team seemed a little extra excited, unusual for a team who had already scored six. But the goal was scored by Kerry Weiland on a point shot and it was her first Olympic goal. As Karen Thatcher chased down the puck as a souvenir, Weiland was greeted at the bench with high fives and hugs at the bench
 
Stack redeemed her failed breakaway attempt and Jocelyne Lamoureux completed the hat trick to solidify the Team USA's path to the gold medal game with a 9-1 victory.
 
Having only allowed two goals all tournament, they seek only one thing -- gold!

-- Jen Raimondi

Americans pulling away
2.22.2010 / 4:33 PM

That frightful 2-0 lead that the Americans saw turn into a 3-2 shootout loss in 2006, was still looming as the second period started with a Swedish surge of energy. But it was not to be as the U.S. took a commanding lead.

Jocelyne Lamoureux found a streaking Angela Ruggiero on the right hand side of the net where she had nothing but time to rip a snap shot top corner over the glove of Martin at 16:38 of the second period.

With a calm and confident looking bench during the celebration, Team USA immediately went back to work, controlling the puck in the offensive zone. Defenseman Caitlin Cahow, put a rising wrist shot toward the net that seemed to fool Martin, finding its way to the net.

Less than halfway through the game, it is seemingly out of reach for the Swedes, but they continued to keep at it.

A Swedish power-play gave the Swedish fans a thrill as Sweden's top goal-scorer, Pernilla Winberg, dazzled with her hand-eye coordination. With U.S defenseman Caitlin Cahow stunned by a blocked shot, Winberg tipped Isabelle Jordansson’s point shot into Vetter's pads. She then batted the rebound out of mid-air, on her backhand nonetheless, into the net for Sweden’s first goal at 10:26.

Karen Thatcher put home another for the U.S. to make it 5-1 and the period ended with the U.S. having already fired 26 shots on net.

-- Jen Raimondi

Team USA jumps out to lead
2.22.2010 / 3:45 PM

If there was any question that Team USA was here to prove a point, it was thwarted just over seven minutes into the game. The seemingly pro-Sweden crowd, still cheering loudly for a Pernilla Winberg goal-scoring chance at the other end was silenced by a U.S. fast break that saw Monique Lamoureux score five hole on Martin.

It didn't take long for the U.S. to strike again with Meghan Duggan scoring on the power-play just over a minute later. With Sweden in the penalty box, Kelli Stack and Caitlin Cahow fought hard to keep a point shot alive, leaving Duggan with a wide open net for her fourth goal of the tournament.

Sweden, however, didn't go away, clogging up the middle and often turning the Americans back at the blue line. Martin as usual was keeping her team in the game, making a Henrik Lundqvist-type header save on a Stack slap shot and an amazing sprawling save on a patient Erika Lawler.

They enter the dressing rooms with a 2-0 score and the U.S. carrying the majority of the play.

-- Jen Raimondi

Another Swede upset?
2.22.2010 / 3:00 PM

The stage is set for the first women's semi-final game between Sweden and the U.S. -- it is an all too familiar one for both teams. Four years ago, a tight and tentative U.S. squad was shocked by the Swedes, in a 3-2 come-from-behind win that earned them a spot in the gold medal game against Canada. The U.S was left to wonder what could have been, settling for the bronze medal.
 
Four years removed, and only six players returning from 2006, the U.S. is now a cohesive and confident group led by their master head coach Mark Johnson. On the 30th anniversary of the 1980 Miracle on Ice, perhaps Johnson can lend some of that magic to his team today for a shot at redemption.
 
The keys to the game stand between the pipes; Swedish goaltender, Kim Martin, who has made a habit of stealing games for her team will be equally matched at the other end by U.S. goaltender, Jessie Vetter, who is riding two consecutive shutouts from round-robin play. Martin and the Swedes will have to stave off the U.S. attack which has outscored its opponents 14-0 in the first period in the tournament and has 31 goals combined.
 
Does Sweden have another upset in them or will the U.S. continue to prove their dominance? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain both Team Sweden and Team USA will be ready to give it their all in front of the Canada Hockey Place crowd as they anxiously await the first puck drop.

-- Jen Raimondi

What it all means
2.22.2010 / 2:58 AM

The pairings sheet for the remainder of the tournament just hit the press box here at Canada Hockey Place. And when you see it laid out before you, you realize just how huge today's US-Canada game was.

By winning, Team USA finished first overall in pool play. That earned it a bye into the quarterfinals, where it will play the winner of the Switzerland-Belarus game. Should Team USA advance, it most likely would play the winner of a Czech-Finland quarterfinal (the Czechs play the Latvians in a Tuesday qualifier).

In other words, Team USA can't meet Canada or Russia until the gold medal game.

On the other hand …

By losing today, Canada wound up the sixth seed. That gave Canada a qualifying game Tuesday with Germany, the most physical of the "second-tier" teams in this tournament.
 
Presuming Canada survives Germany, it would get Russia, which won Group B. So much for predictions of a Canada-Russia gold medal game. That can't happen now. Not only that, one of those two teams won't even make the semifinals.
 
Should Canada beat the Russians, they are likely to face Sweden in the semis.
 
Germany, Russia, Sweden. How's that for a gauntlet? And that's just to get into the gold medal game.

-- John Dellapina

The pairings for Tuesday
2.22.2010 / 2:09 AM

This game is over except for the moderate suspense of whether Henrik Lundqvist earns the shutout. Finland, heading toward becoming a 3-0 loser in a drab performance, still gets the bye--unless Sweden scores three goals in the next minute and a half.

The 3-0 score is a final. Sweden very quietly notched a perfect record during the first and look like they have plenty of offense and it's hard to deny the quality of a Niklas Kronwall/Nicklas Lidstrom defensive pairing, plus Lundqvist in goal. And the Sedin twins haven't completely heated up yet in their home arena.

So here are the rankings and the Tuesday pairings after a high-grade week of Olympics action (times TBA). Some high points: Team USA is the top seed, drawing either Switzerland (again) or Belarus in the quarterfinals. Canada and Russia are heading toward a quarterfinal, because not even the most frazzled Canadian can concoct a German upset storyline. As a reward for winning Sunday's final preliminary round game, Sweden is looking at a very tough quarterfinal game against Slovakia.

BYES
1. USA     
2. Sweden 
3. Russia 
4. Finland

THE REST
5. Czech Republic
6. Canada
7. Slovakia
8. Switzerland
9. Belarus
10. Norway
11. Germany
12. Latvia

TUESDAY GAMES
Czech Republic vs. Latvia (winner plays Sweden on Wednesday)
Canada vs. Germany (winner plays Russia on Wednesday)
Slovakia vs. Norway (winner plays Sweden on Wednesday)
Switzerland vs. Belarus (winner plays USA on Wednesday)



Sweden in control, Part 2
2.22.2010 / 1:21 AM

Best player on the ice in this finale for Rivalry Sunday? Nicklas Backstrom, who scored Sweden's second goal and assisted on Loui Eriksson's second goal to make it 3-0 after two periods. Backstrom is simply outskating Alex Oveckin's shadow with every Caps game he plays and it appears this world stage won't hurt his expansion plans.

Speaking of Backstroms, some Finnish fans will no doubt be wondering if the Niklas "No C" Backstrom deserves a start after Mikka Kiprusoff turned in a so-so night here in Van City. Kiprusoff made it clear that he wouldn't play for Finland in these Olympics unless he was guaranteed a starter's role. Has the guarantee worn out Probably not.

-- Bob Condor

Sweden in control
2.22.2010 / 12:31 AM


Now 1-0 hockey games can change directions in hurry, but the Swedes have dominated the first period. They scored just under seven minutes in the game on a power play goal from Loui Eriksson, who took an on-the-tape pass from the magician and Washington Capitals rising star Nicklas Backstrom.

The Swedes made the power play routine look easy, maybe because the Finns didn't hit anyone on the whole shift. Defenseman Niko Kapanen barely touched Eriksson at the perimeter of the crease.

On the Swedish back line, no such problems. Niklas Kronwall is clearly taking no time off from his usual NHL duties as a body cruncher for the Detroit Red Wings

Mikka Kiprusoff was busy, facing 15 shots to only five for Henrik Lundqvist. Honestly, fans barely noticed Lundqvist was even between the pipes. On the other hand, the, shall we say, zealous Swede male dressed in a bikini halter top and blonde wig drew many hoots during his cameo on the big screen. 

Hard to call: Whether there are more of those yellow Sweden jerseys in the lower and upper bowls or if the blue-cross Finland flags are more prevalent. Great crowd no matter who's topping the color chart. 

Finland needs to pick it up to earn a No. 1 seed. They can start by testing Lundqvist on the remaining minute of a power play to start the second period.

For better or worse, the halter-bikini guy is within view up here in the press tribune It appears he might actually be an American. He has a USA jersey tucked around his waist. Yikes. 

-- Bob Condor

Third game's a charm
2.22.2010 / 12:02 AM

Fans are once again packed to the rafters here at Canada Hockey Place as Finland and Sweden prepare for the nightcap on Rivalry Sunday. The winner takes Group C and gets Tuesday off. The loser might, too, but more about that in a few.

For now, here's the sort of detailed reporting that makes the Destination: Vancouver blog, well, a blog: Finn coach Jukka Jalonen was caught on camera smiling right before puck drop while his Swedish counterpart, Bengt Ake Gustafsson was looking like his stomach was sour.

Omen? We're about to find out.

-- Bob Condor

It's 4-3
2.21.2010 / 9:50 PM

5:30 left and Team USA is tightening up in front of Miller.
 
Canada has a big chance now. 5:04 left and Staal trips on Drury's stick, though the penalty goes to Jack Johnson. That lets Drury kill the penalty. And he just blocked a Thornton centering pass.
 
Crosby's line out second against Kesler and Langenbrunner, Orpik and Erik Johnson.
 
Rick Nash just freight trained down the left side and took Miller out with him. puck back to Keith for one slap, then Boyle for another. Miller sprawls to stop the second.
 
Crosby cutting down the right seam, redirects a feed out of the corner from Nash just inside the far post. It's 4-3. Hang on tight.

-- John Dellapina


End 1: USA leads 2-1

Brian Rafalski, who has two goals already, just got sandwiched by two Sharks -- Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley.

Ryan Miller just robbed Marleau again.

What a period! Ridiculous skill and ferocity at 100 mph (those of you who use metric can do the conversion to kilometers). Seriously, can any other sport provide this?

Ten seconds left in the period. Ryan Kesler gets thrown out of a defensive-zone faceoff, so Joe Thornton wins it right back to Shea Weber. As the entire Team USA bench winces, Weber leans into a bomb. Miller kicks it aside.

End of 1: USA 2, Canada 1.

--John Dellapina

One for each
2.21.2010 / 8:05 PM

Dizzying now!

Eric Staal deflects a waist-high right-point shot by Brent Seabrook down and past Ryan Miller to tie it for Canada at 8:53. The pro-Canada crowd goes wild.

Just 22 seconds later, Rafalski intercepts a clearing attempt up the middle by Brodeur, uses a screen from Langenbrunner and beats Brodeur along the ice. 2-1 USA.

--John Dellapina

Two PPs, no goals
2.21.2010 / 8:00 PM

Getzlaf and Kesler yapping after the second whistle all the way back to the bench.

Callahan behind the net for Team USA. Throws to front off Canadian skates. Brodeur has to reach to keep from skittering across.

2:45 in, first good Canadian chance. Crosby in. Snaps. Miller there.

Getzlaf drives hard to U.S. net. Plows over D and clips Miller with his stick. First U.S. power play.

Ryan-Kesler-Kane Rafalski-Suter

Richards-Toews on the kill with Keith-Doughty

Parise-Stastny-Langenbrunner with Johnson and Johnson

Nash-Marleau with Pronger-Boyle

Third U.S. line gets P time: Malone-Pavelski-Kessel

Pavelski steal and cut in on backhand. Brodeur there.

Penalty killed.

Pavelski high sticks Getzlaf. First Canadian PP

Getzlaf-Crosby-Iginla with Keith-Doughty

Callahan-Drury with Gleason-Orpik on kill

Sharks line of Marleau-Thornton-Heatley with Boyle-Weber

vs. Kesler-Langenbrunner Rafalski-Suter

Ryan Miller robs Marleau and Heatley. Miller looks sharp.

Canadian redwoods out now: Perry-Getzlaf-Staal
 

Penalty killed.

--John Dellapina

Fast start for USA
2.21.2010 / 7:45 PM

A Brodeur puckhandling flub to start. A U.S. flurry around his net ensues. Parise and Langenbrunner peppering their teammate.

Back to the right point for a Rafalski slap, Crosby drops down to block and ends up redirecting it past Brodeur 41 seconds in.

1-0 USA.

--John Dellapina

USA vs. Canada, let's get physical
2.21.2010 / 7:10 PM
The Canadians and Americans are on the ice for warm-ups and Team USA is wearing its third jerseys, a retro look back at the 1960 gold medal winning team with USA running diagnally across the chest from left to right.

Canada didn't come on the ice until more than four minutes on the warm-up clock had expired. The Canadians are wearing red jerseys with the maple leaf on the chest and Canada written in white underneath it. The building went absolutely nuts when the hosts jumped onto the ice.

I was just walking around a bit and looked outside. Not only did I see thousands of people streaming into the building, but I counted at least a dozen TV camera crews trying to get some fan reaction and clips before the game.

It's big here, folks. It's very, very big. And, this is only a preliminary round game.

On the line at CHP now is first place in Group A and a bye into the quarterfinal round. The loser can still earn a bye, but that's a mathematical equation that doesn't matter right now.

The rosters have been handed out and as expected it'll be Martin Brodeur vs. Ryan Miller in goal. Tim Thomas is USA's backup and Roberto Luongo is backing up for Canada.

Team USA coach Ron Wilson will indeed use Zach Parise with Paul Stastny and Jamie Langenbrunner, and Patrick Kane with Ryan Kesler and Bobby Ryan. Remember, Kesler said yesterday that he hates the Canadians, and he plays in Vancouver.

The other lines for Team USA look like this: Joe Pavelski with Ryan Malone and Phil Kessel, and the fourth line rotation includes Chris Drury, Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown and David Backes.

Ryan Suter will be with Brian Rafalski, Tim Gleason with Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson and Brooks Orpik as well as Ryan Whitney is the seventh D-man. Interesting to watch how Jack Johnson and Orpik play. They are two physical blue-liners and they will have to be at their best against Canada.

Speaking of the Canadians, as expected Mike Richards is going to start on Sidney Crosby's left side with Rick Nash moving over to the right. Mike Babcock said he wants Nash to move back to his more comfortable spot on the right side, and he loves Richards' two-way game.

The Sharks trio and the Eric Staal-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry trio will both be back together. Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla and Jonathan Toews are the fourth line with Patrice Bergeron expected to work in there.

Shea Weber and Scott Niedermayer will stay together on the first D pairing. Babcock thinks Weber has been Canada's best D-man in the tournament so far. Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty are together as well as Dan Boyle and Chris Pronger. Brent Seabrook is the seventh D-man and it'll be interesting to see how much he plays.

The building is already rocking. The buzz is electric. The press tribune is full. Dozens of reporters who haven't seen a hockey game at these Olympics yet are here. It's fantastic.

-- Dan Rosen

Excitement building
2.21.2010 / 6:41 PM

The stands here at Canada Hockey Place are filling up, but will we be calling it United States Hockey Place once the day is over?

We'll find out soon enough, but for now the excitement in this building is only starting to build. Just imagine what it's like outside.

-- Dan Rosen

Russians hang on to beat Czechs, win Group B
2.21.2010 / 5:20 PM

Pavel Datsyuk hit the empty net with 12.3 seconds left as Russia completed a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic to win Group B and earn a bye into the quarterfinals.

The Czechs made it close when Milan Michalek scored with 5:09 remaining. But the Russians held on until Datsyuk scored the clincher.

Russia finished with 7 points, one more than the Czechs -- who still have a chance to earn the bye given to the best second-place team.

--John Kreiser


Ovi crushes Jagr, Malkin scores again and it's 3-1
2.21.2010 / 4:54 PM

Alex Ovechkin was rather dormant through two periods, but he made his presence known in a huge, game-changing way early in the third period with a monstrous hit on Jaromir Jagr inside the center ice circle. Ovechkin's linemates, Alexander Semin and Evgeni Malkin, went right down the ice and combined for a goal to give Russia a 3-1 lead just 1:49 into the third period.

Semin crossed the puck to Malkin, who while sliding through the left circle on one knee put a one-timer past Tomas Vokoun. The Czech goalie didn't go post-to-post fast enough.

But, the hit, wow is the only word that comes to mind. Jagr had the puck on his stick and he may have even seen Ovechkin coming, but he couldn't get away from him. Ovechkin had his elbow down and connected hard with Jagr's chest. There was nothing wrong with the hit. It was clean.

-- Dan Rosen


Russia leads 2-1 after two periods
2.21.2010 / 4:32 PM

Viktor Kozlov gave the Russians a 2-1 lead 14:34 into the period after he found the puck at his feet in the high slot, spun around and shot it across his body into the lower left portion of the goal. Roman Polak was on him, but wasn't nearly physical enough with the big Kozlov.

Sergei Fedorov actually started the play by bringing the puck into the zone and pushing it forward to Alexander Radulov. Kozlov dashed toward the net as Radulov pushed the puck forward, eventually sliding it through Tomas Fleischmann's legs to Kozlov in the high slot.

It appeared as though the Czechs scored the equalizer at 15:47, but referee Dan O'Halloran waved his arms signaling no goal despite the pile of bodies in front of the net and Czech forward Roman Cervenka raising his arms. Upon further review it looked as though the puck did cross the goal line, knocked in by either Andrei Markov or Dmitri Kalinin, but no goal was awarded. After they showed the replay on the scoreboard above center ice, the crowd noticed the puck did in fact go in and the Czech fans booed loudly.

The Czechs had two power plays in the final 3:11, but failed on the first and will still have 54 seconds with the man advantage when the third period starts because Alexander Radulov is in the box for charging David Krejci. On the play, Krejci fell on Russia forward Sergei Zinovyev's ankle, causing an injury.

The shots are 19-14 in favor of Russia.

-- Dan Rosen

Russians and Czechs tied at 1-1 after first
2.21.2010 / 3:44 PM

Specialty teams dominated in the first period here as both Russia and Czech Republic scored power play goals.

Evgeni Malkin gave the Russians a 1-0 lead with 4:47 left while Jaromir Jagr was in the box for holding Pavel Datsyuk. Jagr vehemently disagreed with the call and yelled at the official on his way to the box.

Malkin slid over near the right post to avoid the bodies in front of the net and somehow Datsyuk pushed the puck over to him. Malkin wasted no time firing a shot from the lower part of the circle that squeaked through Vokoun's left arm and his left side. The puck actually touched his jersey, but it was moving too fast.

It was only Russia's second goal on 15 power plays in the tournament. It failed on a previous power play in the first period.

The Czechs tied it up with Tomas Plekanec's goal at 19:06 during a 5-on-3 advantage. Konstantin Korneyev went off for tripping at 18:07 and 13 seconds later Sergei Fedorov was sent to the box for tripping as well.

After Datsyuk tried and failed to whack the puck out of the air, it fell to Patrik Elias' feet and he slid a backhanded pass down to Plekanec, who was in the left circle. Plekanec waited for the puck to go past him so it would land on his forehand and once it did he quickly ripped a shot into the far corner of the net.

Russia will start the period a man down for 27 seconds with Fedorov still left in the box serving his minor.

The shots are 12-5 in favor of Russia, but Vokoun has been spectacular. He has made two wonderful saves on Alex Ovechkin, including one on a breakaway.

-- Dan Rosen

Flags are everywhere

2.21.2010 / 3:03 PM

Flags from both countries, Russia and Czech Republic, are everywhere in this building. They are blaring Welcome to the Jungle. It's quite an atmosphere in here, and this is only the first game of the day.

The teams are on the ice, lining up at the blue lines. The atmosphere in here sends chills down your spine and up your arms.

Time for the faceoff. Let's go!

-- Dan Rosen

Czechs and Russians ready to start a HUGE day
2.21.2010 / 2:28 PM

Finally, Rivalry Sunday has arrived.

The Czechs and Russians start off what Ron Wilson called "one of the greatest hockey days of all time," a day Wilson also believes "should be Hockey Day in Canada. It's not Toronto playing Ottawa or Calgary playing Edmonton. This takes on an entirely different meaning for all the people involved."

The U.S. and Canada follow the Russians and Czechs before the Swedes and Finns close out the day. By the end, we will know who has a bye into the quarterfinals and who plays who in Tuesday's qualification round. Monday is an off day here, though teams will be practicing.

If Russia beats the Czechs in regulation, it will win Group B and earn the automatic by into the quarterfinals. All the Czechs need is a point to win Group B and earn the bye, so even an overtime or a shootout loss would be enough for the Czechs. Russia has to win in regulation to avoid facing an elimination game on Tuesday.

As we reported Saturday, Russia coach Vyacheslav Bykov will start Evgeni Nabokov and he has juggled his centers. Evgeni Malkin will start on Alex Ovechkin's line along with Alexander Semin while Pavel Datsyuk will play with Maxim Afinogenov and Ilya Kovalchuk. The other lines have remained the same, meaning Sergei Fedorov is still between Viktor Kozlov and Alexander Radulov and Danis Zaripov, Sergei Zinovyev and Alexei Morozov are also together.

Czech coach Vladimir Ruzicka is keeping Jaromir Jagr with Roman Cervenka and Petr Cajanek. Tomas Plekanec, Martin Havlat and Patrik Elias will remain a line, as will David Krejci, Tomas Fleischmann and Martin Erat. Milan Michalek, Tomas Rolinek and Josef Vasicek are the fourth line.

No surprise that Tomas Vokoun is starting for the Czechs.

It's an all North American officiating crew. Canadians Dan O'Halloran and Guy Pellerin are the referees while Peter Feola (USA) and Jean Morin (Canada) are the linesmen.

The building is filling up. It's almost time to start this awesome day of hockey.

-- Dan Rosen

Loud in here
2.21.2010 / 2:09 AM

There is no letup in this Olympic tourney or the fan enthusiasm. After Belarus appeared to gain control of the game with a third goal at the 11:10 mark to go up 3-1, Germany answered with two goals in the next 60 seconds of play clock. The tying German goal came on a third close-in attempt after Belarus goalie Vitali Koval made two stone-solid saves. 

The crowd erupted on the Belarus goal, clearly in the corner of the red-and-green. But the two quickie German goals raised the noise level even more. 

Do the Belarus math
2.21.2010 / 1:23 AM

When is seven not greater than two? When Belarus, with two NHL players on its roster, outskates Germany and its seven NHLers in the second period of a game that decides third place in Group C. Both sides played hard, but Belarus just seems to have a bit more jump. 

It's possible that Belarus, which played the early game Friday, got more sleep than Germany because the Germans played a late game against what is basically an exhausting Finnish team. 

Belarus winger Aleksei Kalyuzhny scored the only goal of the second period with jabbing move across the crease, beating two German defenders and NHL goalie Thomas Greiss, who was actually blocked out from sliding across the crease with Kalyuzhny by one of those defensemen. 
 
Bottoms upside
2.21.2010 / 12:36 AM

An entertaining first period, as a Surprising Saturday of hockey continues. While some fans might be looking ahead to Rivalry Sunday's big games, another packed house at Canada Hockey Place is basking in an end-to-end game among two nations looking to place third in Group C.

German scored its first goal of these Winter Games at 5:38 when captain and Boston Bruin Marco Sturm rifled a pass cross-ice in front of the goal to another NHLer, the Florida Panthers' Dennis Seidenberg, who put the puck past Belarus goalie Vitali Koval for a 1-0 lead. The Germans finished with 10 shots for the period, though Koval rose to the challenge.

Belaru tied it when Alexsei Ugarov stole the puck in his own end and streaked down the ice with Konstantin Zakharov as a decoy on the wing. Ugarov drew Thomas Greiss out of his crease with a smooth deke, then went right and a quick left to score. Greiss stopped five of six shots in the period. 

Germans looking to score first goal
2.20.2010 / 11:42 PM

It appears that crowd favorite Latvia is headed toward the 12th seed at this tournament, mostly because of a lopsided goal differential. Tonight's opponents, Germany and Belarus, have stuck closer to respectable scores in losses to Sweden and Finland, the Group C dominators who meet Sunday in a winner-takes-first-in-the-group grudge match. 

Germany is looking for its first goal of the tournament, along, of course, with its first win. The Germans feature seven NHL players, including Marco Sturm, who scored the overtime game-winner for his Boston Bruins club at the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. Maybe he can add to his memorable goals collection with an Olympic score.

German goalie Thomas Greiss is back in goal as the starter tonight (or is that this morning on the East Coast?). Greiss, the backup for the San Jose Sharks, looked sharp in an opening 2-0 loss to Sweden but former Sharks backup goalie Dimitri Patzold and German teammate (Greiss actually replaced Patzold in San Jose) started between the pipes against Finland. Greiss likely gives the Germans the best chance against Belarus, which gave Sweden all it could handle Thursday. 

Winner takes third place in Group C and goes home with some Olympic success no matter what happens in Tuesday qualifying round.

Kesler: 'I hate 'em'
2.20.2010 / 9:36 PM

At first, Team USA forward Ryan Kesler tried to put tomorrow's showdown with Canada into some rational perspective. Then, he cut to the chase.
 
"With all the hype, nobody's mentioned the Canadians," the Vancouver Canucks forward said of Team USA's internal discussions. "It's obviously a big rivalry game, but this is for first place. It's bigger than us vs. Canada. It's going to be a real good game. We're going to have to forecheck them hard and obviously, with their skill, we're going to have to be aware of them defensively."

So far, so benign. Then somebody asked why Kesler has had some of his best games against Canada in international competition.

"I hate 'em," he replied, matter of factly.

Asked if he could expand on that, Kesler said: "I hate 'em."  Upon further questioning, Kesler said that he doesn't really hate Canada, he just wants to beat them.

--
John Dellapina

Slovaks start rolling
2.20.2010 / 9:32 PM

More firepower from the Slovaks in the second period - goals from Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus and a 5-0 lead that should be double that.  The Latvians appear headed for a 12th (last) place showing in the preliminary round as Germany or Belarus (who play each other in the night cap) would need to win by at least seven goals in their game.  The chances of that are between slim and none as both teams have combined to score just three goals in the tournament to date.
 
Give the Latvians credit for a couple of things.  Their diehard fans continue to chant and sing their support for their beloved team and Coach Oleg Znarok continues to urge on his troops by standing on the bench for most of the game. 
 
While assured of having to play in a qualifying game on Tuesday (even with a win today), the Slovaks have built off of the momentum of their win over Russia.

--
Gary Meagher

Slovakians begin two-step process
2.20.2010 / 7:54 PM

The Slovakians have a two-part plan to ease their road through the medal round. The first comes now: Beat Latvia to finish 1-1-0-1 for five points in Group B. The second (the hold-their-noses part) comes tomorrow: Root for the Czechs to beat the Russians.
 
That would leave the Russians with a maximum of five points. And since the Slovakians beat the Russians head-to-head, Slovakia would finish second in the group. That, presumably, would give Slovakia an easier matchup in Tuesday's qualification games, which will determine which four of the bottom eight teams in pool play advance to Wednesday's quarterfinals.
 
The Slovaks go with the same line combinations vs. Latvia:
 
Marian Hossa-Demitra-Marcel Hossa
Havlat-Stumpel-Gaborik
Bartecko-Handzus-Zednik
Radivojevic-Kopecky-Cibak

-- John Dellapina


Russians tinker with lines

2.20.2010 / 6:50 PM

Up to the minute news out of Russia's Saturday afternoon practice, thanks to intrepid NHL.com reporter Dan Rosen, who trekked out to the Brittania Ice Arena since the Russians decided not to make themselves available to the mass media at the main rink:
 
Evgeni Nabokov of the San Jose Sharks gets the start in goal tomorrow against the Czech Republic. Presumably, should he win, the Russians then will ride him (and not Phoenix netminder Ilya Bryzgalov) through the medal round.
 
The Russians shook up their top two forward lines, which have had intermittent moments through two games but not displayed consistent chemistry. Basically, centers Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin switched slots.
 
Malkin, of the Pittsburgh Penguins, will center his contemporaries and NHL rivals -- Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals. Datsyuk moves down to play the pivot for Ilya Kovalchuk and Maxim Afinogenov.
 
Also, Russian forward Alexander Radulov, who left the Nashville Predators despite being under contract, spent a few minutes after practice chatting with Nashville GM David Poile.

-- John Dellapina


Norway's got game

2.20.2010 / 3:46 PM

It has been a long wait indeed.

The Norwegians took the lead with a Mads Hansen rocket (got to love the name) from the point on the power play at 5:24 of the period.  It marked the first lead that the Norwegians have held in an Olympic game since their last tournament appearance -- February 24. 1994 -- in the 11th place game against Austria (in Lillehammer). Just as the Norwegians were starting to believe that today might also mark their first Olympic win in 16 years, the Swiss temporarily grabbed control of the game with goals by Roman Wick and Raffaele Sannitz.

Buoyed by a partisan crowd, and his family that must now believe that their upper-level seats are indeed on Cloud Nine, Tore Vikingstad scored his second goal of the game late in the period to draw the Norwegians even.
 
Vikingstad's goal was set up beautifully by 5-foot-7, 160-pound forward Mats Zuccarello-Aasen, the Norwegian fireplug who is representing his country for the second time on Canadian soil (he played at the 2008 World Championships in Halifax).  And yes, Zuccarello-Aasen has some Italian heritage (his grandfather).
 
By the way, they don't skate as fast, shoot the puck as hard or have the razzle and dazzle of some of their fellow European hockey mad countries, but, for sheer entertainment value -- give me Swiss-Norway on any Saturday afternoon.

-- Gary Meagher


Great start to Norway-Switzerland

2.20.2010 / 3:46 PM

So let's be honest -- who would have thought that the Norway-Switzerland game at noon local time on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon in Vancouver would promise much in the way of excitement?

Truth be told, there was more that took place in the game's opening 63 seconds than we have seen in the opening of any of the previous 12 games in this tournament.  The rest of the period also stacked up with any we have seen to date in terms of entertainment value.
 
Start with a couple of big Swiss hits in the first 30 seconds that were clearly intended to send a message to not only the Norwegians, but the other 11 teams as well that they will not exit from this tourney without putting up a fight.  The game was not 58 seconds old when, with Norwegian goalie Pat Grotnes completely out of position, defenseman Jonas Holos made a great skate save on a Swiss shot before he covered the puck with his hand in the crease.  Penalty shot -- an easy call in any league!  Former NHL'er Hnat Domenichelli took the shot but could not beat Grotnes.
 
Five seconds later, the Swiss got on the board with a nice backhand by Julian Sprunger. 
 
Five minutes in, the Norwegians enjoyed a two-man advantage for 1:48 -- but could not even muster a shot on Jonas Hiller.  OK, not the most riveting stretch, but they made up for it seven minutes later when Tore Vikingstad, with more than 20 family members in attendance (they were interviewed on the in-arena videoboard prior to the game), fooled Hiller with a backhand that he nearly fanned on that trickled through the pads of Hiller.
 
Super Sunday is still 24 hours away -- but Surprising Saturday is shaping up to be a lot of fun for hockey fans at Canada Hockey Place.

-- Gary Meagher

Battle of the North

2.20.2010 / 11:58 AM

You are Jonas Hiller, goalie for Switzerland, taking a couple weeks away from your regular job with the Anaheim Ducks. You stand on your head, kicking left and right, to stay close with the USA. You stone Canada through three rounds of shootoout before finally letting the host nation exhale. You have one point to show for the first two games.

You wake up on Saturday morning, on a crisp, postcard-perfect day in Vancouver. You think today will be a better day. You look up in the crowd to see your NHL owner, Henry Samueli, here to cheer you on. You look across the ice to see Norway in red and blue. You are Jonas Hiller and you are thinking, three points.

As puck drop looms, the crowd here at Canada Hockey Place has nearly filled up the place for Norway-Switzerland. Only a few lower-bowl seats are empty. Canadian hockey fans get all the credit for that, along with the loyal Swiss and Norwegian fans here with no care for jet lag. 

-- Bob Condor

Finns continue strong pool play with win

2.20.2010 / 02:08 AM

Don't look now, but the Finns have won seven straight Olympic games in pool play over the last two Games. In fact, they've won nine of their last 10 Olympic games overall, the only loss being that 3-2 squeaker to Sweden in the 2006 gold medal game.

This one -- a 5-0 drubbing of Deutschland -- required a little early perseverance as the Germans battled physically and erected a four-man wall at their blue line, determined to play a flinching game with the Finns. The Finns did not flinch.

Instead, they methodically picked up a goal here and a goal there until breaking it open midway through the third on tallies by Jarkko Ruutu of the Ottawa Senators and Joni Pitkanen of the Carolina Hurricanes. Niklas Backstrom didn't have much to do but was credited with 23 saves for the shutout.

You have to wonder if the Germans operate under a different scoring system -- as if bodychecks count the same as goals. Perhaps under that measurement standard, getting no shots on goal through the first nine minutes of a third period you entered trailing, 3-0, makes sense.

Especially if you allow the fourth goal but one of your defensemen, Denis Seidenberg of the Florida Panthers, pancakes both the assist man (Ville Peltonen) and the goal-scorer (Jarkko Ruutu) on the play.

OK, Finland just scored again. And nobody got knocked down. Don't know how that one can be viewed as a positive for Germany. Joni Pitkanen buried a power-play slapper from the point and it's 5-0.

Germany, your long wait is over. A German winger just flipped a soft shot toward Niklas Backstrom -- a mere 9:21 into the third. The Finnish goaltender put down his coffee and newspaper long enough to glove it.

Wait, there might have been a dangerous German shot. Nope, Thomas Greilinger's snapper from the right circle was headed wide. But, just to get in a little practice, Backstrom gloved it.

-- John Dellapina

Selanne provides new Olympic mark
2.20.2010 / 01:33 AM

Teemu Selanne now stands alone. The classy, prolific Finnish winger was credited with the second assist on Kimmo Timonen's goal with 3:57 left in the second period. That was Selanne's 37th point in Olympic competition, breaking his tie with the Soviet Union's Valeri Kharlamov for the most by any player in the modern history of the Games.

The period was a big one for Timonen and the Finns, who used two goals by the veteran defenseman to turn a 1-0 nail-biter into a far more comfortable 3-0 lead.

Ultra patient on a couple of power plays, Finland worked the puck meticulously until it was time for Timonen to finish.

Early in the period, he snuck down from his left point position and converted a pretty goalmouth feed from Olli Jokinen of the Rangers. Late in the period, Timonen used a screen from Jokinen to sail a 50-foot wrist shot past German goaltender Dimitri Patzold.

The Germans weren't without scoring chances in the second period. Niklas Backstrom made a couple of pretty saves -- the best came against German captain Marco Sturm of a sharp cut in off the right wing on a rush that took advantage of a slow Finnish line change. But the German approach has remained unflinching: one forechecker and four men back. And that has meant that the only chances they get are solo dashes off turnovers.

Is a 3-0 deficit enough to get the Germans out of their defensive shell?

-- John Dellapina

Finns up after physical first
2.20.2010 / 12:35 AM

It should come as no surprise to anybody who has seen these teams play or knows Olympic history that the first 20 minutes were rugged. Nor should it have been a shock that a couple of battles for loose pucks determined the score.

On the first, Tuomo Ruutu of Finland outworked a couple of German defensemen to get to the juicy rebound of a Janne Niskala slap shot and nudge it over the line behind Germand goaltender Dimitri Patzold for a 1-0 lead 4:21 into the game.

On the second, the German defense refused to be outmuscled by Finnish forward Niko Kapanen. So though Patzold was hopelessly out of the play, leaving his net unguarded, Kapanen could not double Finland's lead.

In his first action of the tournament, Finnish goaltender Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild had a fairly easy period. He faced just four shots on goal as the Germans characteristically forechecked with just one player and sat back in counterattacking mode. Until, that is, German forward Manuel Klinge slipped behind the Finns defense with 1:19 left. But Backman flashed his catching glove to rob Klinge and keep the Germans off the board.

--John Dellapina

Finns look to keep pace
2.19.2010 / 9:39 PM

In Friday's late game the Finns will be looking to keep pace with Sweden in Group C--to set up a grudge match that will be the finale on Rivalry Sunday. The Finns will have to do so against German goalie Dimitri Patzold, who gets the starting nod over Thomas Greiss.

Funny thing, Greiss is currently the backup goalie for the NHL's San Jose Sharks. Who did he replace in that job? Patzold. 

Former Canucks defenseman Sami Salo got the biggest pregame applause--for a hockey player. Canada's latest gold medalist, Jon Montgomery, who won the skelton competition, drew raves and decibels.

Sight in the "press" tribune: Row in front of us, a "journalist" taking photos of the German team, whooping as he snaps. Dead giveaway was when the same gent draped a German flag banner over the table wall in front of him. He is now waving the flag as the puck drops and clapping to the house music. 

OK, then.

-- Bob Condor

Czech the Group B standings 
2.19.2010 / 9:39 PM

After a shaky start, Latvia played solid hockey for the last 55 minutes of this middle game Friday. Goalie Edgars Masalskis redeemed himself with several more quality saves in the third period. He faced 39 shots for the evening, more than twice peppered on the Florida Panthers/Czech Republic's Tomas Vokoun. The Czechs scored late on an empty net to make it a 5-2 final. 

The Czech Republic victory puts it in position to top Group B with a win or at least a tie Sunday against the Russians (which is the 3 p.m. ET game on NBC for you American Ovi watchers).

Vokoun figures to get plenty more action Sunday, and he is certainly capable of going into shut-down mode, no matter if it's Ovi, Kovy or anyone else. Should be fun.

-- Bob Condor

Latvia rising
2.19.2010 / 8:54 PM

A much stronger period by Latvia goaltender Edgars Masalskis. He made three-point blank saves in the middle of a busy period, including a pad-sprawler to deny crowd favorite Jaromir Jagr's second goal of the game. He faced only eight shots in the period--much better 'D' by the Latvians--but at least half could have been labeled sure goals.

The decibel level spiked significantly when Latvia cobbled together a couple of scores in the last five minutes of second-period play. Girts Ankipans made it a two-goal contest (hey, come on, this Canada Hockey Place loves the rise of the underdog) late in the period. 

Here's something you don't see at NHL games: Latvia's backup goalie, Sergejs Naumovs, remains on the bench between periods. Sporting the requisite ballcap, he is chatting up between-the-benches reporter Ray Ferarro (yes, that Ray Ferarro), who is working the Canadian broadcast for Sportsnet. Naumovs stuck around for about nine minutes, then moseyed inside to sit with his team.

-- Bob Condor

Take five, score three
2.19.2010 / 8:08 PM

The game might have started a little fast for Latvian goalie Edgars Masalskis and his teammates. The Czechs scored three goals in the first 5:07.

The Boston Bruins' David Krejci started things off with a convincing deke on Masalskis, pulling him out for an easy flip and score. Krejci is playing on a line with NHLers Tomas Fleischmann and Martin Erat, who both assisted on the goal.

Tomas Plekanec scored next, then Jaromir Jagr (remember him?) finished off a five-minute flurry with a patented short-range rocket slapper. 

But to his credit, Masalskis settled himself and the Latvians followed. It stayed 3-0 at the period's end. The Czechs outshot their foes, 16-4. 

-- Bob Condor

Czech-ing the numbers
2.19.2010 / 7:30 PM

OK, first number-crunching exercise of this round-robin Olympic tournament. If the Czech Republic can beat Latvia in regulation in Friday's middle game (you have to like their chances), then Russia will have to beat the Czechs in regulation to win the group.That's because a regulation putsJaromir Jagr and  the Czech Republic at 6 points with Ovi and Russians at 4. A team gets three points for a regulation win

Starting goalies: Tomas Vokoun for the Czechs, Edgars Masalskis back at it for Latvia.

-- Bob Condor

Closing time
2.19.2010 / 4:59 PM

Sweden is not exactly known for a dump-and-change-shifts style, but it basically played keep-away for the last four of the final five minutes. Belarus had a couple of good chances, including a streak down-wing by Andrei Stas, making Jonas Gustavsson make a tough stop. 

With less than a couple dozen ticks on the clock, Daniel Alfredsson salted the game with his second goal of the game. Now, Sweden can look ahead to Rivalry Sunday. 

-- Bob Condor

Game on, says Belarus
2.19.2010 / 4:56 PM

Belarus is making a game of it and then some. After notching its second goal to make it a one-goal game, the underdogs' Konstantin Zakharov took a hard shot on a break at the left faceoff only to ring the crossbar.

The Canada Hockey Place crowd has clearly adjusted to Upset Mode, cheering "BEL-ah-Roos" and generally buzzing about another lower-tier Olympic team making a big dog sweat. 

You know there are some Swedish journalists here wondering if maybe Henrik Lundqvist should have suited up after all. 

-- Bob Condor

Franzen's rehab lights scoreboard
2.19.2010 / 4:28 PM

Hard to believe, but more than four months ago Red Wings star Johan Franzen was looking at least four months of knee rehab. Flash-forward to this game's second period. Franzen scored the in-control goal to make it 3-0. Long way back and a good thing for a Sweden that can use Franzen's overall game in this tournament. 

Belarus drew some cheers with a power play goal on Swedish backup goalie Jonas Gusatvsson. The Maple Leafs' 'Monster' made a first save on a shot from the point, then as the puck was underfoot he kicked out, falling on his back. When he lifted his legs a bit to see the puck's whereabouts, Belarus forward Aleksandr Kulakov slid it under Gustavsson. 

The period ends 3-1 Sweden. One more period until the Sunday grudge match with Finland. 

Same old, new old
2.19.2010 / 3:14 PM

The game's first goal is scored less than seven minutes in on a put=back of his shot by Daniel Sedin. A near-full house (only some lower VIP seats are open) roars to Sedin's goal, assisted, natch, by twin brother/skater Henrik, plus linemate Mattias Weinhandl making a nuisance of himself in front of the Belarus net. Weinhandl is one of just a handful of non-NHLers on the Swede squad. There are 19 NHLers in all wearing the yellow and blue.

About three minutes later, Daniel Alfredsson scores the second Swedish goal, redirecting a pass before crashing the net off its marks. Alfredsson's dad was interviewed on the big screen before the game, leading the crowd in a traditional Swedish cheer. Both Dad and Daniel are accustomed to this scene; Alfredsson, 37, is a four-time Olympian and second-oldest among Swedish to only Nick Lidstrom, 39. The Ottawa Senators star now has 21 points in his four Olympic campaigns. Only Finland's Teemu Selanne (see you Sunday) has scored more with 24 points in 1998, 2002 and 2006.

Henrik Zetterberg, the Red Wings star and heir apparent to guy-who-makes-Sweden-go looks much faster on the ice today compared to Wednesday's opener (that's the expert view of NHL.com's Dan Rosen). Maybe Belarus captain Ruslan Salei wanted to slow down the Swede when he put a big lick on Zetterberg earlier in the period. A few shoves were exchanged after the whistle, including Zetterberg giving a good push and a bit more; 'Z' went to the penalty box for a two-minute minor for roughing.

Belarus Olympic folk hero and goalie Andrei Mezin is playing a solid game, proving he can still play at the international level eight years after the Big Upset. But, so far, it appears Mezin already had his more glorious day against the Swedes. After one, Sweden 2, Belarus 0.

-- Bob Condor

Can Mezin do it to the Swedes again?
2.19.2010 / 2:47 PM

Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson led the Swedes onto the ice and Stefan Liv is the other goalie, so Henrik Lundqvist is getting the game off today. Belarus has changed goalies, too, and this one may turn into a storyline today.

Andrei Mezin will take over in net for Vitali Koval for obvious reasons. Mezin, 35, rose to international fame eight years ago in Salt Lake when he made 47 saves to beat Sweden in the final game of pool play.

If Belarus is going to stun the hockey world again, Mezin will be its man.

Mezin also played extremely well in the inaugural Victoria Cup game two years ago when he stopped 40 of 44 shots for Metallurg Magnitorgorsk against the New York Rangers in Bern, Switzerland. The Rangers won the game, 4-3, thanks to Ryan Callahan's goal with 20 seconds left in regulation.

Ironically, Lundqvist was in net that night in Switzerland for the Rangers, but he won't be against Mezin here in Vancouver.

Sweden's lines appear to be the same, and they are as follows:

Forsberg-Zetterberg-Hornqvist
Alfredsson-Backstrom-Eriksson
Sedin-Sedin-Weinhandl
Pahlsson-Modin-Franzen

The D-pairings are also the same:

Lidstrom-Kronwall
Johansson-Tallinder
Ohlund-Enstrom
Murray-Oduya

Sweden needs to develop some chemistry with those lines today before going into Rivalry Sunday against the Finns. Don't be shocked if Franzen gets bumped up in place of Weinhandl at some point today.

-- Dan Rosen

Demitra nets winner in seventh round
2.19.2010 / 2:44 AM

Jozef Stumpel scores after a great deke on Bryzgalov and slides it into an open net on his backhand.

Morozov stopped on a blocker save by Halak.

Demitra stopped by Bryzgalov on a poke check.

Ovechkin ties it by threading it five-hole on Halak.

Marian Hossa tries to wait out Bryzgalov but is stopped.

Pavel Datsyuk stopped on a poke check by Halak.

Need extra shots -- teams reverse shooting order. 

Ovechkin shoots for the second time (rules are different than in NHL), loses puck trying to deke Halak.

Stumpel's second attempt is thwarted by Bryzgalov.

Ilya Kovalchuk rips it wide of the net.

Michal Handzus stopped by Bryzgalov.

Ovi for the third time -- dekes Halak but misses on the backhand.

Marian Gaborik takes his first attempt but shot is saved by Bryzgalov.

Evgeni Malkin takes his first shot -- but Halak stands his ground.

Demitra wins it by taking a winding road to the left side before getting Bryzgalov to move left while he softly bounces the puck off the left post and in.

Slovaks full marks for the win after two tough opponents in a 24-hour period.

-- Gary Meagher

Get ready for another shootout
2.19.2010 / 2:27 AM

Slovaks had the better chances in the five-minute OT but could not beat Bryzgalov. Canada Hockey Place has been rocking for almost 11 1/2 hours but another shootout is needed to decide a winner -- much to the delight of the crowd.

-- Gary Meagher


Slovaks kill 5-on-3, force overtime
2.19.2010 / 2:15 AM

The Slovaks had a great opportunity to tie the game early in the third period when they had a two-man advantage for 1:14. The puck never left the Russian zone during the stretch but a combination of Bryzgalov's brilliance and the three-man unit of Anton Volchenkov, Dmitri Kalinin and Sergei Fedorov that were not able to make a change, thwarted the Slovak attack. 

A weary Slovak bunch persevered though and got the game-tying goal at 9:48 on a Marian Hossa one-timer from the high slot after a feed from Pavol Demitra that beat Bryzgalov five-hole. 

The energy level, scoring chances and physical play, along with the fan enthusiasm, all were ratcheted up in the final five minutes of the regulation time but the score remained deadlocked. The Slovaks in particular, had some great chances to get the winner in the last minute but Bryzgalov was excellent. Headed to overtime for the second time in four hours.

-- Gary Meagher


Russia takes lead during physical second
2.19.2010 / 1:30 AM

The Russians opened the scoring at the 5:32 mark of the second period -- 12 seconds after the Slovaks had successfully killed off a Tomas Kopecky hooking penalty. Halak had no chance when a Aleksey Morozov blast from the high slot first deflected off Slovak defenseman Andrej Sekera and then off of the back of Michal Handzus, who went down trying to block the shot.

The IIHF does not keep track of hits but it is clear that, even without the statistic, Alex Ovechkin's physical presence will be felt by opponents throughout the tournament. As he did in the first period (and as he does on a nightly basis with the Capitals), Ovi had a couple more big hits -- first laying out Pavol Demitra less than two minutes into the period and then leveling Zdeno Chara midway through the period.

The Slovaks have been able to maintain their energy level and had several good scoring chances -- the best coming within a 20-second stretch beginning at 13:40 when a Marian Hossa tip of a Demitra feed forced Bryzgalov into a great save and then Hossa went in on a partial break but again was stoned by the Russian goalie.

Halak made several spectacular saves as the Russians outshot the Slovaks 16-5 in the period.

-- Gary Meagher


Tense atmosphere marks scoreless first
2.19.2010 / 12:45 AM

The electric atmosphere in the building just three hours ago for the Swiss-Canadian nail-biter was replaced by a tentative, scoreless first period between the Slovaks and the Russians at a jam-packed Canada Hockey Place.

Bryzgalov (10 saves) and Halak (8 saves) were both perfect in goal, while Alex Ovechkin did his best to try and spark his teammates with big hits on Lubos Bartecko early in the period and then Zdeno Chara as the period wore down. He also had the period's best scoring opportunity 12 minutes in but could not beat Halak. 

-- Gary Meagher


Slovakia looks to pull an upset
2.19.2010 / 12:05 AM

The 2010 tournament is still looking for its first upset, less than two hours after Team Canada was able to fend off the pesky Swiss 3-2 in a shootout. Slovakia, playing 24 hours after a strong performance in losing to the Czechs, will be in search of that first upset -- against the powerful Russians. Slovakia will be looking to do exactly what it did four years ago in Turin when it knocked off Russia 5-3 in its opening game of the tournament. 

The Slovaks must be wondering what they have done to anger the tournament's schedule makers. Facing the powerful Czechs and Russians within 24 hours this year comes on the heels of having to play no less than three back-to-backs in 2006.

This will be the third meeting in Olympic competition between the Slovaks and the Russians. In addition to the 2002 game, Russia defeated Slovakia 3-2 in overtime in a quarterfinal game in 1994.

Ilya Bryzgalov gets his first start in goal for Russia, while Jaroslav Halak is back in net for Slovakia.

-- Gary Meagher

Sid comes through for Canada
2.18.2010 / 10:10 PM Swedish referee Marcus Vinnerborg flips a coin with captains Scott Niedermayer and Mark Streit on hand to decide who gets the choice to go first.

Hnat Domenichelli to shoot first vs. Martin Brodeur:

With Swiss bench arm-in-arm, Domenichelli comes straight in and blasts … blocker save. No goal.

Sidney Crosby dekes backhand, forehand. Hiller stays with him and gets his right toe on it. No goal.

Romano Lemm goes backhand, forehand and then shoots wide, though Brodeur went for poke check.

Jonathan Toews straight in, snaps high glove. Hiller swipes and get a piece.

0-0 through two rounds.

Roman Wick goes backhand, forehand, holds and tries to lift. Brodeur stays with him. No goal.

Ryan Getzlaf vs. his Anaheim teammate. Tries to slip a backhander through the pads. Hiller squeezes. No goal.

0-0 through three.

Canada goes first now...

Crosby shoots and SCORES, blocker side!

Martin Pluss rips, Brodeur glove save.

Canada survives!

--John Dellapina

We're going to a shootout!
2.18.2010 / 9:35 PM Martin Brodeur vs. Jonas Hiller Or, more to the point, Martin Brodeur vs. Mark Streit and a bunch of players NHL fans are only just now getting to know. And Jonas Hiller against one of the most talented lineups ever assembled. Buckle your seatbelts.

--John Dellapina

Canada-Switzerland Overtime!
2.18.2010 / 9:45 PM

Wow! Now, we've got a tournament.
Canada outshot Switzerland 18-3 in the third period and 43-18 for regulation.
Five minute OT, 4-on-4.
Then a shootout in which you can use the same shooter over and over after the first three have gone.

--John Dellapina

End to End Excitement -- Extra Hockey?
2.18.2010 / 9:35 PM

A 4-on-2 for Switzerland was thwarted, sending Canada flying the other way with similar numbers. Corey Perry cut through the crease and slid a shot off the outside of the net. The puck came in front to Ryan Getzlaf, who leaned into a 25-foot rocket. His Anaheim Ducks teammate Jonas Hiller snatched it out of the air with a flourish!

Time out Canada with 5:17 left.

Dany Heatley on the doorstep alone with 4:30 left. Hiller anticipates and repels.

The overtime rule for the Group Play round, according to the IIHF Sport Regulations posted on NHL.com's Destination Vancouver site: In preliminary round, a five-minute sudden victory overtime period will be played with four skaters against four skaters following a three-minute intermission. Teams do not change ends. If still tied, game winning shots procedure will apply.

--John Dellapina


Midway Through Third, We've Got a Game!
2.18.2010 / 9:25 PM

Somebody forgot to tell the Swiss that it has been pre-ordained that Canada will win this tournament.

Giving as good as they get rather than just hanging on, Team Switzerland remains tied with Canada with nine minutes remaining. And they're coming just as hard at Martin Brodeur as the desperate Canadians are coming at Jonas Hiller.

Remarkable!

--John Dellapina

More than Canada asked for
2.18.2010 / 9:10 PM

Presumably in control of the game when Patrick Marleau swooped off the wing 35 seconds into the second period to put away a sitter that resulted from a Shea Weber howitzer hitting Dany Heatley in the ribs, Canada exited the period wondering what had hit it.

That was because, unwilling to accept that it doesn't belong on the same ice with the mighty home team, Switzerland kept coming until it used a perfect slap shot by Ivo Ruthemann and a pinball goal by Patrick von Gunten to tie it 2-2 going into the third.

Heatley's period was a profile in courage.

At least he got an assist -- to go with his team-lead-tying three goals -- for getting punctured by that first Weber point shot. Later in the period, Weber drilled Heatley with another bomb from the point. This time, the puck struck Heatley directly on the right bicep.

Heatley skated back to the bench cringing. But not only did he return, he went right back to his spot in front of the net and in the direct line of Weber's cannon fire when the Canadians were awarded another power play late in the period.

More harmful to Canada was Switzerland's refusal to go away.

When two Swiss players pounced on Canada defenseman Drew Doughty midway through the period, they forced a turnover and a resulting 2-on-1. Without much to shoot at, Ruthemann rifled a perfect, left-circle slap shot past Martin Brodeur's catching glove and in off the far post 8:59 into the period.

Canada probably was looking for a second-intermission regroup as time wound down. But 10 seconds before the horn sounded -- and withChris Pronger facing a delayed penalty -- von Gunten saucered a pass from the left boards toward a teammate cutting for the far post. The pass never connected. Instead, the puck ricocheted off the left skate off Marleau, who presumably was backchecking that deep to cover for Pronger, who was engaged higher in the slot. The carom slid into the net behind Brodeur and, remarkably, it was 2-2.

--John Dellapina

Canada finally scores against Switzerland!
2.18.2010 / 8:20 PM

Oh (for) Canada against Switzerland ended 9:21 into the game.

Four years after being stunningly shut out by Switzerland's Martin Gerber in an Olympic pool play game in Torino, the Canadians got that little piece of business out of way fairly quickly when Dany Heatley deftly kicked a Patrick Marleau pass up to his stick and then curled it around Jonas Hiller's right pad.

But that was all Canada got against the big, skilled Hiller and the game, physical Swiss in an entertaining first period that ended 1-0.

That despite Canada going on the power play three times -- once because of a too many men penalty and once on a phantom hooking call.

Making his first start of these Games, Martin Brodeur took a look behind his net, saw no trapezoid painted there to restrict his movements, and partied like it was 2004. Brodeur resumed the role of "third defenseman" that he regularly played before NHL rules changes coming out of the work stoppage precluded goaltenders handling pucks in the corners behind the goal line.

Brodeur also was pretty good in front of the goal line, of course. About 13 minutes into the game, his four limbs splayed, Brodeur windmilled his catching glove up and snatched a ripper by Rafael Diaz. The puck might have sailed just over the crossbar. But Brodeur had sent his message: He was ready.

--John Dellapina

Red and white redux
2.18.2010 / 7:23 PM

If you're not in red and white, you need not be here right now.

From both teams, which are sporting eerily similar sweaters that make this look like an intrasquad scrimmage (except one team is much larger and more talented), to just about every fan in the stands (is anybody here not wearing a Team Canada jersey?) to the Russian journalists in the press box who come to the Olympics decked out in Team Russia gear, just about everybody in Canada Hockey Place is wearing red and white.

Four years ago in Torino, of course, the Canadiens were seeing red after their inconceivable encounter with Switzerland. Martin Gerber, then of the Carolina Hurricanes, played a superb game in goal and the Swiss stunned Canada, 2-0, in pool play.

Martin Brodeur was the Canadian goalie that day. And he will be again this afternoon. Switzerland, however, will go with Jonas Hiller, who his having a breakthrough NHL season for the Anaheim Ducks.

The Canadian forward lines are the same as the ones with which they ended Tuesday afternoon's obliteration of Norway, meaning: Jarome Iginla is on the right side of the Sidney Crosby-Rick Nash combo. The other trios:

The Canadian Redwood Line: Perry-Getzlaf-Staal
The San Jose Sharks Line: Marleau-Thornton-Heatley
The Four Man of the Fourth Line: Morrow-Bergeron-Toews-Richards
Will Canada gain its revenge four years later? Puck drop in 15 minutes.

-- John Dellapina

How the Americans feel after two games
2.18.2010 / 6:13 PM

They still haven't played their best, but that's not a bad thing, according to David Backes, who told NHL.com he knows Team USA has a lot to clean up over the next two days before they run the gauntlet against Canada.

"Well, first off we're 2-0 so we're not going to have too many complaints, but we know our game has to get better, especially in the neutral zone in order to beat a team of the caliber of the Canadians or the Russians," Backes said. "Even watching the Czechs and Slovaks yesterday, the Swedes and the Finns, if we give odd-man rushes up the way we did against Norway, that's going to be troublesome for us."

Ryan Malone was one of many American players uttering similar sentiments.

"In the third we played the way we wanted to play where we didn't give up any odd-man rushes and the first five periods we got sloppy with that and careless," Malone told NHL.com. "I think we did a better job and we'll get better as we go, but that's the biggest thing, especially coming up against Canada with the offense they have."

-- Dan Rosen

Men at work

2.18.2010 / 5:03 PM

As Olympic hockey goes, this has been a textbook "workman-like" period. Crisp passing, good shot attempts and solid goaltending. Jack Johnson and Ryan Malone broke the lunchpail spell with a little less six minutes left in the game. Johnson went close-in and rifled a shot to Pal Grotnes' blocker. Malone batted the twirling puck about waist-high for the fourth USA goal. Ryan Miller got the assist and you know he will talk to his buddies back home about that one.

With the result no longer in doubt, time for a new edition of Name That Power Play. The latest Ron Wilson combo was Parise, Langenbrunner, Stasny, Rafalski, Suter. Rafalski scored on the PP.

Perhaps more importantly for Sunday's Canada game, Wilson changed up lines in the third period. Langenbrunner joined Jersey mate Parise (a move NHL.com's Dan Rosen predicted before the fournament) and Pat Kane moved off that line to join hometown fave Ryan Kesler and Bobby Ryan. All intriguing changes. Stay tuned for Sunday.

The goal light behind Norway's Grotes stayed on after the fifth. Perhaps the judge knew Rafalski would bag a second one before game end. It finishes 6-1 USA.

-- Bob Condor

Kane goal: First of many in Olympics?

2.18.2010 / 4:08 PM

Four and a half minutes into the second period: Another quality stop by Ryan Miller to avoid any collar-tightening 2-1 score.

At 5:32, all USA avids can breathe easy. Kane head-mans the puck into the Norway zone, then dishes off to Zach Parise on the left side. The Devils star rockets one at Pal Grotnes, who makes a brave save but leaves a back-at-you gift in the crease for Kane. It is the young forward's first as an Olympian. Just like Brian Burke and Ron Wilson wrote it up.

A minute later, Miller makes another good stop on a 2-on-1. Odd but true: Miller is getting bonafide work despite a low shot total (it was 18-5, America, at roughly the midway point of the game).

Miller lost his shutout a couple of minutes later on a faceoff-circle wrister from a streaking Marius Holtet, who has some size to along with what appears to be a pro-capable shot.

Norway has had a couple more bonafide chances in the second half of this second period, appearing more about the USA D instead of the Norway O. It doesn't exactly exude overconfidence about defending Sid and his Canada Co. on Sunday.

Not to get ahead of anything...

Energy boost from Drury line
2.18.2010 / 3:43 PM

During first intermission, Team USA general manager Brian Burke praised Ryan Miller's work in goal. Funny, maybe, since Miller stopped all of two shots in the first period. But both shots were big-league chances and one came less than minute into the game.

Norway goalie Pal Grotnes was hammered with 14 shots in the period, doing his best to hold off the American charges. Best line on the ice? Chris Drury between David Backes and Ryan Callahan. They brought lots of energy to each shift, hitting people and scoring the second goal--a Drury put-back after New York Rangers teammate Ryan Callahan put a laser on net up high of the right faceoff circle.

Norway's Mats Zuccarello Aasen was generally a pest on his shifts. Anyone who has played the game knows the type--small, fast, hard to hit. When the Norway forward went off for cross-checking, the power play game began here in the press tribune. Just who will Ron Wilson be putting out there during medal-round power plays? This combo featured USA linemates Pat Kane and Zach Parise, while an earlier power play featured Kane and Phil Kessel.

Answer to the pre-game quiz: Drury is the other USA player to win a Hobey Baker award. Nice of the Olympic veteran to score as part of the quiz presentation.

-- Bob Condor

Early returns
2.18.2010 / 3:11 PM

The American flags are blanketing the crowd sections here. And the Americans figure to cover the shot shot just about as thoroughly against Norway. The first USA shot was 20 seconds into the game, and Phil Kessel scored 2:39 into the opening period on a training-video-perfect backhand pass from linemate Joe Pavelski. Norway's goalie, Pal Grotnes, has been busy and respectably up to the task.

On the other end, Ryan Miller made a big-league stop in the game's first minute. He has been tagged as just the steady presence in goal that the young Americans need, and the Sabres goaltender did just that.

-- Bob Condor

Takin' care of business

2.18.2010 / 3:02 PM

While USA coach Ron Wilson speculated this week that Sunday might be the greatest day of wall-to-wall hockey in history (the three games here at Canada Hockey Place are Russia-Czech Replublic, USA-Canada and Sweden-Finland), there is business at hand here in Vancouver. Team USA must dispense with Norway, Canada needs to stay spotless against the Swiss and Russia has the toughest "test"--so it seems on paper--with Slovakia in the late game.

Ryan Miller is in the nets as the Americans get ready for the first period. He is the "man" in goal for the USA, a decision NHL.com's Shawn Roarke reported earlier this week. He figures to maybe break a light sweat in today's West Coast matinee before Sunday's smackdown with the Canadians. Quiz question of the first game: Along with Miller, who is the other Hobey Baker award winner of NCAA hockey's highest honor on the USA team? Back with the answer after the first period.

-- Bob Condor

Demitra's not happy with Czechs

2.18.2010 /03:24 AM

Slovakian forward Pavol Demitra was not pleased with the fact that his team was whistled for six minor penalties in the first two periods of Wednesday night's loss to the Czech Republic. On the sixth, Tomas Plekanec scored the crushing goal with 2 seconds left in the second period that made it 3-1.

Actually, Demitra's ire was directed as much at his opponents as the officials.

"Every time you touched them, they'd go down," Demitra said. "It was embarrassing. It looked like they were playing soccer. Maybe we have to start diving, too."

-- John Dellapina

Czech mate

2.18.2010 /02:15 AM

Other than a few good scoring chances midway through the period during their lone power-play opportunity, the Slovaks got a good taste of how the Czechs can clog the neutral zone, win the battles in the defensive end, break up just about every rush at their own blue line and generally shut the game down when they carry a lead into the final period of a game.

The fast-paced, end-to-end rushes, great scoring chances and spectacular goaltending in the first two periods by both teams was replaced by the sight of five Czechs often skating backwards through the neutral zone and frustrating the Slovaks at every turn.

The Czechs' defensive effort in the third period can best be summed up by their shot total during the frame -- a grand total of two!

-- Gary Meagher

Czechs take the lead
2.18.2010 /01:48 AM

The Slovaks deserved a much better fate than a 3-1 deficit after two periods as the final minutes of the period dealt them a double dose of bad luck. After having the better of the play for most of the period, the Slovaks gave up two goals late in the period.

With 2:14 left, Marian Hossa clearly had Tomas Vokoun beat with what would have been the go-ahead goal for the Slovaks, but struck the post. Ten seconds later, Czech star Jaromir Jagr beat Jaroslav Halak with a wrist shot through the five-hole to give the Czechs an unlikely 2-1 lead. And then, with Slovak defenseman Zdeno Chara in the penalty box for hooking, the Czechs scored their first power play on their sixth man advantage of the game as Tomas Plekanec beat Halak with just two seconds to go in the period.  

The Slovaks dominated the first five minutes of the period -- outshooting the Czechs by a 6-1 margin and were rewarded for their efforts with a goal by their "hobbled" star Marian Gaborik on a great shot from the slot over the left shoulder of Vokoun. Gaborik took a nice feed from Marian Hossa with Pavol Demitra picking up the other assist.

The second period was a battle of the special teams with the teams going a combined 1-for-6 on the power-play. Until Plekanec's goal, the Czech power-play looked similarly ineffective to the first period with the closest chance coming on a Marek Zidlicky shot off the crossbar in the waning moments of the second of back-to-back power-plays midway through the period.  Czech coach Jan Filc may have been sending a message to his star players when he elected to send out his thrid line -- Martin Erat, David Krecji and Tomas Fleischmann to start their second power-play of the period.  On their successful power play late in the period, Filc tried a new combination with Jagr, Elias and Plekanec. 

The Slovaks outshot the Czechs 13-12 in the period.  

-- Gary Meagher

Great start
2.18.2010 /12:46 AM

The most entertaining opening to a game thus far in the tournament saw only one goal -- a Patrik Elias deflection of a Miroslav Blatak shot from the point at 9:02.

The teams exchanged end-to-end rushes, scoring chances, 10 shots on goal each and a great goaltending duo between Jaroslav Halak of Slovakia and Tomas Vokoun of the Czech Republic.  The Slovaks, led by the strong defensive play of the tandem of Zdeno Chara and Lubomir Visnovsky killed off two Czech power plays, while the Slovaks rarely threatened on their only power-play opportunity.

Both Marian Gaborik, playing with Jozef Stumpel and Ziggy Palffy and Marian Hossa, on a line with brother, Marcel, and Pavol Demitra took regular shifts on the Slovaks top two lines.   

-- Gary Meagher

Gabby's a go
2.17.2010 /11:35 PM

Either the Slovak team doctor was sandbagging or he got overruled -- or Marian Gaborik just had a miraculous recovery.

Whatever the case, the New York Rangers' goal-scoring machine was the first skater to hit the Canada Hockey Place ice for Slovakia moments ago, following starting goaltender Jaroslav Halak onto the pond.

Gaborik, who suffered a deep gash to his thigh in a practice collision with Rangers and Team Sweden goaltender Henrik Lundqvist last week, was declared out of tonight's game and doubtful until Slovakia's Group B finale against Latvia on Saturday by the Slovak team doctor. Perhaps a second opinion was sought and found.

Also on the Slovak injury front, Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks is on ice for warmups and apparently ready to go. Hossa suffered a concussion in the Hawks' game against Atlanta on Saturday and had to sit out their pre-Olympic finale at Columbus on Sunday. But Hossa showed no ill effects from taking part in Slovakia's full practice here Monday, and follow-up tests cleared him for action.

-- John Dellapina

Sweden leads 2-0 after second period

2.17.2010 / 9:01 PM

Ex-Canuck defenseman Mattias Ohlund and Dallas forward Loui Eriksson scored for Sweden in the second period. Henrik Lundqvist faced only three shots while Sweden managed 10 on Thomas Greiss.

Ohlund scored on the power play 4:29 into the period with a blistering slap shot from the left circle. It appeared the Swedes got lucky, though, because fellow Canuck Daniel Sedin made contact with Greiss as he was leaping to get out of the way of Ohlund's shot. No whistle was blown, so the goal stood.

It came with Thomas Greilinger in the box serving a minor boarding penalty by Marcel Muller, who was serving a 10-minute misconduct for a hit to the head.

Muller was likely retaliating for an earlier hit to the head of a German player by Johnny Oduya, who also received two minutes for boarding Marco Sturm behind Lundqvist at 32. With Kronwall already in the box serving his penalty, Germany went on a 5-on-3 for 69 seconds, but couldn't convert.

Eriksson has linemates Nicklas Backstrom and Daniel Alfredsson to thank for his goal. Alfredsson rubbed Alexander Sulzer off the puck in the corner, freeing it to Backstrom, who made a move to get to the net before sliding it across the crease to Eriksson for a slam dunk goal at 14:13.
 
-- Dan Rosen

Sweden and Germany in scoreless tie after first
2.17.2010 / 8:10 PM

In what is definitely a surprise, Sweden and Germany are tied after a riveting first period complete with lots of end to end action, speed and physical play. Germany will start the second period on the power play as Niklas Kronwall went off for holding at 19:41.

Germany had the first five shots of the game but Sweden came back and had six of the next eight. The Swedes looked poised to score midway through the period as they started to hold the puck more and create some chances, but Thomas Greiss stood up to the challenge. He made a particularly good save on a deflection in front by Nicklas Lidstrom.

Sweden had a power play negated after just 31 seconds when Mattias Weinhandl was called for holding the stick at 16:36.

The biggest hit of the tournament so far occured 4:15 into the game when, who else but Kronwall lined up and laid out German forward Michael Wolf just inside the blue line in the German D zone.

-- Dan Rosen

Norway loses Skroder
2.17.2010 / 7:44 PM

Norway forward Per-Age Skroder's Olympics are done.

Skroder will miss the remained of the Olympics, including Wednesday's game against Team USA in Group A action after stretching ligaments in his right ankle during the second period of Tuesday's 8-0 loss to Canada.

"We are one player short," said Lars Otto Bjoernland. "He is in a good mood and he'll probably stay to watch the Games."

Skroder, who plays his club hockey for MoDo, could miss up to three months of action.

While Skroder is out, the Norwegians will have the services of defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, who joined the team on Tuesday after attending to a family matter. Tollefsen, who started the season with the Philadelphia Flyers, but now plays for the Grand Rapid Griffins in the American Hockey League, is expected to play against the United States.

"They have a better team but we can outwork them," Tollefsen said. "We can't play the European style over here. We're going to get killed if we do that."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Hagman explains goal he scored from knees
2.17.2010 / 5:56 PM

Niklas Hagman scored the biggest and prettiest goal in Finland's 5-1 win over Belarus this afternoon at Canada Hockey Place. He slid across the crease, went down to one knee and with his backhand was able to slid the puck between the right post and Belarus goalie Vitali Koval's outstretched left skate.

Hagman's goal, his second of the game, game Finland a 3-1 lead with 3:08 to play in the second period. Valtteri Filppula scored 23 seconds into the third to separate the Finns from the Belarucians before Jarkko Ruutu closed the scoring with 7:01 to play.

Here's Hagman's explanation of the goal as told to NHL.com:

"(Mikko) Koivu rimmed the puck and Tuomo (Ruutu) was going with good speed with the defenseman in the corner. I tried to yell at him that I'm behind him that he could leave the puck or tip it to me. He did a great job eliminating the guy and I found the puck. First, I thought I'm just going to try to shoot it, but the defender, he kind of stepped on me a little bit so I figured I'm going to try to put it on the other side and get it on my backhand. I got passed the guy and I fell because his stick was right there. When I was on my knees I noticed the puck was right there so I mean, I got a little lucky there that the puck was coming with me."

Hagman knew it was an important goal, but it wasn't like the Finns were squeezing their sticks when the game was 2-1. They outshot Belarus, 11-2, in the second period.

"Obviously it was nice to get the goal, but we knew that there was a lot of time still in the game and eventually we were going to get the goal," Hagman said. "At the time in the second period we maybe weren't playing as well as we should have, but we knew that we can pick up our game and get the goals that we need. I wouldn't say we were too worried, but obviously we knew we had to play better if we wanted to get the next goal and win."

-- Dan Rosen

Finland wins opener over Belarus, 5-1
2.17.2010 / 5:12 PM

The Finns got a goal from Valtteri Filppula just 23 seconds into the third period and then Jarkko Ruutu scored off a deflection at 12:59 to put away the plucky Belarucians for good. It was Ruutu's first point in 13 Olympic games.

Finland outshot Belarus, 45-12. Miikka Kiprusoff didn't have much work to do, but he did stop 11 shots. He might have fallen asleep a few times on the other end because the time of possession was that lopsided. However, he did get his legs taken out from under him by Aleksei Ugarov late in the third period, and got some action by his net soon after. Kipper, though, didn't allow anything.

Finland plays its next game in pool play on Friday against Germany, which is preparing to play Sweden in the next game here.

-- Dan Rosen

Finland leads 3-1 after two periods
2.17.2010 / 4:26 PM

Montreal's young talent Sergei Kostitsyn scored for Belarus just 21 seconds into the second period to slice Finland's lead to 2-1, but the Finns got another goal from Niklas Hagman with 3:08 left before intermission to re-gain a two-goal lead and head into the locker rooms up 3-1.

Kostitsyn scored from in front of the net off a feed from behind the net by former Rangers' prospect Sergei Demagin. Lasse Kukkonen turned the puck over, leading to the goal.

Hagman, though, had the prettiest goal of the game so far by slicing through the crease, knifing between Aleksandr Makritski and Konstantin Zakharov before going down to one knee and using his backhand to put the puck into the net. He slid it by Vitali Koval's left skate, just inside the right post.

Belarus had a pair of power-play chances, but couldn't tie the game before Hagman's goal.

-- Dan Rosen

Finland scores two on PP to lead 2-0

2.17.2010 / 3:39 PM

Olli Jokinen and Niklas Hagman each scored on the power play to give Finland a 2-0 lead over Belarus heading into the first intermission here at Canada Hockey Place. Finland outshot Belarus, 17-2, proving it really is men against boys in this game.

Jokinen scored off a pretty feed from Saku Koivu at 3:24. Hagman scored from the slot off a nice feed from Mikko Koivu at 17:50.

Teemu Selanne had the secondary assist on Jokinen's goal, and that gives him 36 points in his Olympic career, tying him with Vlastimil Bubnik (Czech), Valeri Kharlamov (Russia) and Harry Watson (Canada) for the all-time record. Saku Koivu's assist gives him 20 in his Olympic career, and that's two shy of the all-time record held by Kharlamov.

-- Dan Rosen

Gaborik unlikely today or Thursday
2.17.2010 / 3:10 PM


Slovakian coach Jan Filc spoke briefly after the team's morning skate and discussed the status of forward Marian Goborik, who is battling a right thigh injury suffered while playing for the New York Rangers.

Gaborik crashed into Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist in practice and suffered a cUt just above the right knee that required 21 stitches.

The Team Slovakia doctor said earlier this week that Gaborik would likely miss Slovakia's first two games -- Wednesday's Group C matchup against the the Czech Republic and Thursday's game against Russia, which hammered Latvia, 8-2, on Tuesday night.

"He doesn't look very well so it's not perfect," Filc said Wednesday morning. "We agreed we will discuss this within half an hour afterwards. It's still open but I would say that it's not very optimistic."

Filc then said that there is a chance that Gaborik could play against Russia. 

"Twenty-four hours makes quite a bit difference so it's difficult to say what will happen (on Thursday) during the day, so we will have to wait."

The Slovakians can remain patient as the pool-play round is just for seeding. If the Slovakians lose to either the Czechs or the Russians, they are almost assured of having to play in Monday's qualification round. They hope Gaborik will be ready by then.

Filc did not address the status of Marian Hossa, who is battling a head injury. Hossa did undergo a full practice on Monday and said he was feeling much better. But, he remains a game-time decision.

--Shawn P. Roarke

Finland and Belarus ready to get under way
2.17.2010 / 2:17 PM

The first game of Day Two here at Canada Hockey Place is about to begin.

As expected, Miikka Kiprusoff will get the start in net. Niklas Backstrom will be his backup and Antero Nittymaki, who starred for the Finns in the '06 Olympics when they won silver, is the emergency goalie.

It appears that Saku Koivu and Jere Lehtinen will be playing with Teemu Selanne.

Selanne's 35 points in his Olympic career is one point shy of the all-time record of 36 that is shared by Vlastimil Bubnik (Czech), Valeri Kharlamov (Russia) and Harry Watson (Canada). Selanne's 20 career goals in the Olympics is also five shy of the modern record of 25 held by Sven Johansson (Sweden) and Vladimir Zabrodsky (Czech).

Koivu has 19 career assists in Olympic play and that's three shy of matching Kharlamov's all-time record of 22.

Mikko Koivu, Tuomo Ruutu and Valtteri Filppula will make up a scoring line. Niklas Hagman, Olli Jokinen and Antti Miettinen are the third line with Ville Peltonen, Jarkko Ruutu, Niko Kapanen and Jarkko Immonen making up the fourth line rotation.

Finland's D-pairings look like this: Lasse-Kukkonen-Joni Pitkanen; Sami Salo-Kimmo Timonen; and Sami Lepisto-Tony Lydman. Janne Niskala appears to be the seventh D-man.

Ruslan Salei, who has played all of two games for Colorado this season, is in the lineup for Belarus. Salei played more than 19 minutes on Feb. 13, his first game since Oct. 8. The only other NHLer in Belarus' lineup is Sergei Kostitsyn.

-- Dan Rosen

Another day set to begin
2.17.2010 / 2:17 PM

We're right back at 'er, here at Canada Hockey Place on Wednesday morning.

They just opened the doors to the fans and quite a few Finnish fans are filing in. The Suomi wave is taken full effect here in Vancouver. They are great hockey fans from my experiences in Finland.

I drew early duty today and my compatriots will be joining me a little later on as we once again cover the sights and sounds of today's three games. The day starts with the aforementioned Finns playing Belarus, whose fans will soon be in the house, I'm sure.

A little later, the Swedes take on the Germans and North American fans will once again get to see Peter Forsberg playing top-flight hockey again. That should be a treat. The early buzz here from some of the Swedish journalists in the press tribunal is that Johan Franzen will start on the fourth line. Could he make a journey to the top line like Jarome Iginla did in the Canada game? Me thinks so.

The night ends with the most interesting game of the night -- a blood feud between the Czechs and the Slovaks.

There will be no Marian Gaborik for the Slovaks and Marian Hossa, another of their big guns, is a game-time decision with a head injury.

But Czech defenseman Pavel Kubina says that Slovakia will be dangerous whether or not Gaborik and Hossa play.

"If they miss one or two guys, sometimes the other guys get more ice time and try to replace those guys," Czech defenseman Pavel Kubina said. "You never know who's going to play."

--Bob Condor

Three and out
2.17.2010 / 2:35 AM

We'll have all the updates throughout the day here, plus both Dan Rosen and I are tweeting from Vancouver. Dan is at drosennhl and Shawn is at sroarke_nhl. Join us there.With 1:03 left, Russian captain Alexei Morozov scores on a rebound after Russian and Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov goes in uncontested on Masalskis. And that would be the pure definition of uncontested. Even Markov seemed shocked to be left without a touch; he sort of hitch-stepped on his way to the goal, maybe anticipating a hit or at least a bump.

Masalskis faced 45 shots and looked like a guy headed for a good night's sleep. He earned it.

--Bob Condor

Shootout with the actual shootout

2.17.2010 / 2:02 AM

Biggest cheer of the night when Latvia scores its first goal of the game 33 seconds into the third period.

Alex Ovechkin doesn't allow too much cheering. He comes back to score with 1:01 gone in the period. He's got two now. Maybe he heard Canada's Jarome Iginla was awarded a third goal and the resulting hat trick when the International Ice Hockey Federation ruled what was Rick Nash's goal was instead Iginla's hat clincher when the puck went off his shaft.

Russia makes it 6-1 at the 1:30 mark and adds a seventh just a minute or so later. Latvian goalie Edgars Masalskis has officially lost his center of gravity and his earlier steady grip on the game's respectability.

Then Lativa scores 3:25 into the period on a perimeter goal that it seems Nabokov saves on pretty much every NHL game night.

With just less than 14 minutes left in the game, Malkin rushes and air-lifts across the crease to score, er, maybe not. Malkin has raised his arms to celebrate but Latvia's Masalskis stands him up. That's you get some of your respect back. 

--Bob Condor

Getting a 'second' wind

2.17.2010 / 1:42 AM

Latvia is looking more like, well, a team in this second period. That's no surprise since this group of Olympians plays together during the rest of its hockey season. San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov had to some up with his second big save of the game to turn back a deft give-and-go. Halfway into the period, after a first 20 minutes when you weren't sure the puck would even make it out of the Latvian defensive zone, Latvia is largely carrying the action.

Really.

The wave has started in earnest. Canada Hockey Place is going international; those orange-clad Netherlands athletes here to watch Ovi and Co. are skilled wavists.

Going random, Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin looks taller in his Russian uniform; maybe's it's the vertical blue stripe broad-stroked on the front of the team's other-wise  all-red socks. ... There are 23 men on the Latvian roster and 22 have first names that end in the letter 'S'. So what's up with Rodrigo Lavins?

Malkin and Pens/Russia teammate Sergei Gonchar are out late in the period on the same power play with Ilya Kovalchuk. It is not a surprise that Malkin bagged his first goal of these Olympics.

Ovi 1, Geno 1. The rest of the field, consider yourselves warned.

--Bob Condor

Russian to fast start
2.17.2010 / 12:47 AM

And there's the next one. Alexander Radulov at 7:46. He executed a perfect put-back after Viktor Kozlov took a hard, low shot on net. Latvia goalie Edgars Masalskis is battling, notably on a laser of a one-timer in the slot by new Devils superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. The shot staggered Masalskis.

Latvia did manage a couple of rushes and make Russian starter Evgeni Nabokov work side-to-side a bit. One tantalizing rebound was smothered by Nabokov to the dismay of the underdog rooters in house.

Time out for a thought about a dear friend, the late Jerome Holtzman, author of "No Cheering in the Press Box" and a Hall of Fame baseball writer enshrined in Cooperstown: There is a Russian reporter with a No. 8 Ovechkin jersey down one row and to my right. Jerome would not understand.

There's few empty seats here as all eyes and oohs are on Ovi. You know people are nudging their seat mates and saying things like "You will tell your own kids you saw this guy play in the Olympics" and "Can you believe Datsyuk is the center with Ovi and Semin?"

Ovi scores from the slot, 35 ticks left in the period, a row of Russian reporters (?!) are applauding with hands over head.

The tournament is officially on.

--Bob Condor

Latvia vs. Russia
2.17.2010 / 12:17 AM

No worries about a late start downsizing the crowd -- not when Alex Ovechkin is on the ice for Russia. Canada Hockey Place is buzzing and there is no shortage of red Russia jackets and track suits, including at least a dozen here in the press tribunal.

No surprise that Russia scores 2:38 into the game, just the scorer was a slight mystery. Danis Zaripov scored with -- here's a familiar name -- Sergei Fedorov getting the primary assist.

More goals to come, no doubt.

--Bob Condor

Nabby tonight, Bryzgalov on Thursday

2.16.2010 / 10:10 PM

Evgeni Nobokov of the San Jose Sharks will get the call in goal when Russia plays its first game of these Olympics tonight against Latvia.

Russian GM Vladislav Tretiak, who knows a thing or three about goaltending, said Nabokov will yield to Ilya Bryzgalov of the Phoenix Coyotes for Thursday's game against Slovakia. Washington rookie Semyon Varlamov is the Russians' third goaltender.

Tretiak said the Russians' top line will feature two members of the Washington Capitals -- Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, playing on the wing with Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk in the middle.

The Russians are trying to win Olympic gold for the first time since 1992, when they won as the Unified Team after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

--John Kreiser

Nothing to it

2.16.2010 / 10:01 PM

For two periods, Team Canada goaltender Roberto Luongo had as much to do as the backup Norwegian goaltender Andre Lysenstoen who, with touque atop his head, sat back against the glass behind his team's bench much of the game and watched on the huge center-hung video boards.

But when finally called upon, Luongo darted post-to-post and got his left pad on a slam-dunk attempt by Tore Vikingstad on a Norway power play 2:30 into the third period.

Two minutes later, at the end of a lengthy delayed-penalty situation on which Team Canada played keep away when it wasn't bombing away, Ryan Getzlaf slid home a backhander with his back to the net to make it 4-0. That prompted Norwegian coach Roy Johansen to tap Lysenstoen on the shoulder, interrupt his television viewing, and send the goalie in to relieve the under-siege Grotnes.

Dany Heatley just blasted a left-circle slapper past Lysenstoen on a power play. And the rout officially is on.

OK, having pounded the Norwegians into submission, the Canadians are now going Harlem Globetrotters on them. Moved onto the right wing of the Rick Nash-Sidney Crosby line, Jarome Iginla just finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play that left Lysenstoen so far out of the play, an usher asked to see his ticket.

And the extra point is ... good! Or was that a rouge that Canada just tacked on?

The Canadian Redwood line of Getzlaf, Eric Staal and Corey Perry just went timber on the Norwegians. Perry got the goal after Staal and Getzlaf simply caved in Norway's defense to make it 7-0.

And, to add insult to injury, Lysenstoen just allowed a goal that appeared to have gone right through the R and the G on the on the word N-O-R-G-E that runs down the front of his sweater. As it was off a deflection by Iginla of a spinning, 50-foot wrister by Nash (although the PA announcer has declared that the goal belongs to Nash), Canadian fans have begun showering the ice with hats and toques. No word if anybody on the Norwegian bench threw Lysenstoen's toque on the ice.

Mercifully, it's over -- 8-0 for those scoring at home. As leisurely an opener to their home Olympics as Canada could have hoped for.

-- John Dellapina

Norway's Tollefsen still eligible
2.16.2010 / 9:10 PM

Norway defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen missed Tuesday's game against Canada, but IIHF officials say he is still eligible to play in subsequent games despite missing the 2:30 p.m. (PT) deadline to submit his paperwork to IIHF officials.

Tollefson had to turn in his passport two hours before the start of the Canada game. But, he is away from the team due to a unspecified family matter.

The IIHF took into account that the extenuating circumstances and granted Tollefson, the Norwegian team's only North American-based player,an exemption.Tollefson plays for Grand Rapids in the American Hockey League, the affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, who hold his rights.

Tollefsen is expected to play on Thursday against the United States in Norway's second of three Group A games..

--Shawn P. Roarke


Reality sets in
2.16.2010 / 9:07 PM

A little over a minute after Shea Weber did something frightening, Jarome Iginla assuaged whatever Canadian fears might have been building.

On an early power play, Weber unloaded a howitzer of a slap shot that struck the elbow of the right post and crossbar with such force that it rocked the goal frame back several inches. Having dodged that bullet -- meaning: having avoided getting struck by such a blast -- Norwegian goalie Pal Grotnes never saw the low shot from Iginla that broke the scoreless tie 2:30 into the second period. That was because Rick Nash, one of the many hulking Canadian forwards who make the Norwegian players look like Lilliputians, set a complete screen in front.

Having taken a period to figure out that their size advantage could best be exploited by bombing away and driving to the net, the Canadians doubled their lead two minutes later when Chris Pronger leaned into a left-point slapper and a down-low Dany Heatley redirected past Grotnes.

Having drawn a couple of penalties 1:12 apart, the Norwegians had a chance to cut into Canada's lead midway through the second period. But during their 48 seconds of 5-on-3 time, their best shot was a thunderous bodycheck from Per-Age Skroder that plowed Jonathan Toews.

Canada pounced soon after returning to even strength as Mike Richards grabbed a puck off the backboards and slammed it through Grotnes to make it 3-0.

Skroeder paid for having clobbered Toews in that 2-on-1 pile-up when, coming down the left wing 14 minutes into the period, he was body-bombed by a textbook hit from Drew Doughty. Skroeder tried to return the favor later in the shift but wound up being helped to the dressing room upon returning to the Norway bench.

It's 3-0 at the end of a bruising second period. Probably a lot of ice bags being passed around the Norwegian locker room.

-- John Dellapina

A scoreless first period

2.16.2010 / 8:23 PM

Sidney Crosby won the opening faceoff to a rousing ovation. But Canada didn't provide its crazed fans with many other highlights over the game's first 10 minutes.

One exception was a Crosby rush that so unnerved Norwegian goalie Pal Grotnes, he wiped out while trying to move laterally. Fortunately for the Norwegian netminder, his five teammates rallied around him and defenseman Alexander Bonsaksen was able to stop Patrice Bergeron from sliding the loose puck into the unguarded net.

Is it a good sign if your management team brings a camera to take photos? That is what one of the men in the Norwegian box could be seen doing midway through the first period. Perhaps he wanted to memorialize this scoreboard sight: CAN 0, NOR 0.
Big hand for Wayne Gretzky, who was shown on the scoreboard with 8:19 left in the period. Suffice to say, The Great One looked a lot more relaxed than at any time during the previous two Olympics, when he was running Team Canada.

A follow through on a rim-around by Shea Weber wound up catching Norway's Per-Age Skroder in the face, giving the Norwegians the game's first power play. They hardly threatened.

Canada got its first chance with a man advantage with 6:57 left in the period. A Patrick Marleau rip from the bottom of the left circle off a Joe Thornton dish was the best chance Canada produced. But Grotnes enveloped it, leaving no rebound.

Finally, a puck squirted free in the left circle with 2:28 left in the period. But Grotnes snatched Crosby's snapper with his catching glove. When he can stay on his skates, this guy is pretty good. And he'd better be -- while his teammates support the puck diligently and swarm to any open Canadian player -- they last visited the attacking zone during yesterday's practice.

The horn just sounded to end the first period. The SCORELESS first period. Norway must be ecstatic. Canada? Probably still quite certain that the dam is about to break.

-- John Dellapina

Ready to go

2.16.2010 / 7:15 PM

With each game requiring a separate ticket, the building cleared between matches and nobody in this entire nation willing to miss a single moment of Team Canada action, Canadian fans were pressed, at least a hundred deep, for over an hour just outside the entrances to Canada Hockey Place while awaiting the opening of the gates for today's second session. Once granted coveted admission, they quickly filled the lower bowl and waited for their heroes to emerge for the warm-up.

Which Team Canada finally did, but only after leaving the ice to the Norwegians for the first four minutes. Apparently desirous of maintaining the routine to which they are most accustomed, the Canadian players cut their pregame warm-up short to conform with the normal NHL length (approximately 15-16 minutes) rather than the full 20 afforded teams in the Olympics.

Luongo led Team Canada onto the ice, with captan Scott Niedermayer right behind him. Martin Brodeur, who backstopped Canada to Olympic gold in Salt Lake City in 2002, will back up local hero Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks. So Brodeur was the last Canadian player to hit the ice.

While the players warmed up, the Canadian coaching army -- head coach Mike Babcock and assistants Jacques Lemaire, Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock -- studied the Norwegian pregame, trying to size up their largely unknown opponent.

Interesting sight: Though they're virtually all wearing red or white Team Canada jerseys, the fans around the Canadian end of the rink were all standing -- as if in respect to passing dignitaries -- while the fans around the Norwegian end were sitting.

The Canadian Lines:

Marleau-Thornton-Heatley
Nash-Crosby-Bergeron
Staal-Getzlaf-Perry
Morrow-Toews-Iginla/Richards

Boyle-Pronger
Keith-Seabrook
Niedermayer-Weber
Doughty

Although plenty of Canadian players fired high and wide of the net during the warm-up, there is no sign yet of the "glacial, unremitting, unrelenting pressure" that Team USA general manager Brian Burke says is weighing on Team Canada.

Opening face-off in 15 minutes.

-- John Dellapina

Burke likes what he saw for first 60 minutes
2.16.2010 / 6:15 PM

Team USA GM Brian Burke met the media in the mixed zone. Here is some excerpts of his informal press conference.

"It's nice when your big guys chip in like that. Obviously that's a bonus, but their role later in this tournament is going to be different. But, yeah, when you get unexpected sources to chip in that's a very important part of being successful in a tournament. You need unexpected help."

"I thought the Swiss came out real hard. It was a real hard fought first period. They pinned their ears back and came hard on the forecheck and threw their weight around a little bit. I thought we were patient, weathered the storm and nobody got rattled. Yeah, I'm sure some of the young guys were nervous. This is a big stage. This is Broadway."

"Early on I thought they were (more physical) and then I thought we answered that challenge well. I don't think there is much doubt about who was more physical later in the game."

"What David Backes does is he's big but he can move his feet well, he's got proper levels of truculence and he's good on faceoffs. He does a lot of the pick and shovel things on a team well, and he's going to have to shut down people and bang later in the tournament."

"I thought the Swiss did a really good job in their D zone positioning when that line (Parise-Stastny-Kane) had the puck, so I don't think they had a lot of chances. But, they had good puck possession and good puck movement, they just didn't generate a lot of offense. That will come. I thought we overpassed the puck a lot today."

"We had one practice. This is the first 60 minutes that these guys have played together and with that yardstick I'm pleased with the game. Was there some rust and some misplays? Yes. Did we have a couple of breakdowns that will cost us in the first period? Yes. But we're talking about the first 60 minutes of the tournament here and these guys had one practice and 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."

-- Dan Rosen

Team USA captain liked start, wants better

2.16.2010 / 5:45 PM

Jamie Langenbrunner spoke to NHL.com after the game. Here's what he had to say:

NHL.com: Was that the start you wanted?

JL: "I think it was the start we kind of expected. We knew we would be a little jittery early on. It's the first game of the tournament and we haven't had a ton of time together to get too settled in with each other so we were a little bit sloppy, but it was a win. We played through at team that is a difficult team to play against. They have played together for a while and they play hard. I think we did a pretty good job of making sure we got two points."

NHL.com: How much of a relief was Ryan's goal?

JL: "That was huge (Ryan's goal), especially late in the period. Late goals are usually back breakers or big momentum swingers. That definitely catapulted there in the second. We played a really good second period. We scored two and probably could have had a few more. We came out in the third and had a couple of quick opportunities and then we kind of sat back a little bit and got caught not playing the way we need to play. That's something we definitely need to work on."

NHL.com: What do you guys need to work on in practice tomorrow?

JL: "I think we're going to have to realize the situation of games a little better. We got caught on some 2-on-1s and 3-on-2s late in the game, which we can't do. We have to realize the time and the score and play accordingly, play winning hockey. That'll come. Everybody wants to do their best out there and create things, and the more we get relaxed and the more we feel comfortable we'll get better."

-- Dan Rosen

USA holds off Switzerland, 3-1
2.16.2010 / 5:08 PM

The Americans got blanked in the third period and gave up a power-play goal to the Swiss, but the 3-0 lead they built halfway through the game was enough to win their Olympic opener.

Switzerland got a goal from Roman Wick 9:45 into the third period, but that was all it could muster as Ryan Miller came up with big in what wasn't a memorable period for the American team. Switzerland had at least five odd-man rushes that we could count and a pair of power plays.

Ryan Suter was in the box when Wick picked up his goal because he roughed Wick in the defensive zone. Joe Pavelski was also called for hooking 4:49 into the period.

Nevertheless, goals by Bobby Ryan, David Backes and Ryan Malone stood up as enough for Team USA in the opener. They outshot the Swiss, 24-15, though managed only two shots in the third period. Miller made 14 saves, but several of them were big.

Canada vs. Norway is up next. John Dellapina will be blogging that one.

-- Dan Rosen

Goals by Backes and Malone make it 3-0 USA
2.16.2010 / 4:27 PM

Team USA got goals by David Backes on an end to end rush and Ryan Malone from the slot on the power play to make it 3-0 just 8:25 into the second period. That's how it stayed until the end of the period. Team USA had 14 shots while the Swiss had just four, giving the Americans a 22-9 advantage in the shots on goal department.

Backes' goal was a beauty. After Ryan Miller made a leg-splitting save on Ivo Ruthemann, Backes gathered the puck and off he went down the left wing wall. He made it into the zone untouched and when defenseman Yannick Weber finally engaged, Backes treated him like a pylon and went right around him, cutting to the front of the goal.

He went backhand to forehand before sliding the puck past Jonas Hiller's outstretched left leg. Hiller could have made a pokecheck, but he chose not to and he paid for it. The goal occured at 5:52.

Shortly after the Americans went on the power play as Raffaele Sannitz went off for hooking Zach Parise. USA kept the puck in the zone for a long while and finally cashed in at 8:25.

Ryan Suter fired a shot from the top of the zone that Hiller stopped, but he couldn't control the rebound. Joe Pavelski and Malone were in front, and Malone wound up slamming it in to make it 3-0. Hiller looked like he lost sight of the puck.

There was a scare as Erik Johnson collided with Andres Ambuhl and went down hard. He appeared to favor his right knee, but he didn't miss a shift.

On to the third period.

-- Dan Rosen

Ryan gives USA 1-0 lead at first intermission
2.16.2010 / 3:40 PM

Bobby Ryan scored Team USA's first goal of the tournament with 1:01 left in the first period to give Team USA a 1-0 lead going into the first intermission. You could almost sense the relief the Americans got with that goal as they headed off into the locker room.

The period was fast and physical. The Swiss did not sit back and let the Americans come to them, though the top line of Zach Parise, Paul Stastny and Patrick Kane did control the puck well and got some glorious chances. The Swiss attacked and USA goalie Ryan Miller had to come up with some big saves, five in all.

The Americans had eight shots in the period, but the last one is what mattered.

Ryan had gotten hit on the left wing half wall by Thierry Paterlini, but he managed to dig the puck out and got it to the point for Brooks Orpik. He shot it, but Rafael Diaz tried to catch it, but it ended up going off his glove and settling between the circles and above the hash marks. Ryan got up and found the puck. He wasted no time firing a wrist shot that went through Diaz's legs and just over Jonas Hiller's catching glove.

Team USA had the lone power play of the period, but failed to produce a goal. Severin Blindenbacher went off for holding Dustin Brown at 9:49. USA's first power play unit included Parise, Kane and Brown along with Jamie Langenbrunner and Brian Rafalski at the points. The second unit had Ryan Malone, Statsny and Phil Kessel with Ryan Suter and Erik Johnson at the points.

Miller had to come up with a big stop on Hnat Domenichelli at 14:50 after a turnover.

Overall, it was a good start for the Americans, but it was clear that they are trying to find one another. The Swiss played well and whenever their first defense pair of Mark Streit and Yannick Weber were on the ice, you could see they elevated their game and got the puck moving.

-- Dan Rosen

USA vs. Switzerland about to get underway
2.16.2010 / 2:53 PM

The warm-ups are over and the tournament is about to begin.

The P.A. announcer here at Canada Hockey Place just announced Ryan Kesler's name and the crowd went nuts.

I'll be checking back in with some blog updates throughout the game, so stay tuned.

Ryan Miller is starting in net while Switzerland is obviously going with Jonas Hiller. Here are USA's lines:

Parise-Stastny-Kane
Malone-Pavelski-Kessel
Langenbrunner-Kesler-Brown
Callahan-Backes-Ryan

Suter-Rafalski
E. Johnson-Whitney
J. Johnson-Orpik

Drury and Gleason are also in the mix as they will also be on the bench. Everybody dresses.

-- Dan Rosen

Babcock: Doughty is one of the best

2.15.2010 / 11:52 PM

Drew Doughty may not dress for Canada's Olympic opener Tuesday against Norway, but that didn't stop Mike Babcock from heaping oceans of praise on the young L.A. defenseman Monday.

"I think Doughty has been one of the best defenseman in the National Hockey League this year," Babcock said. "I think he has been that good. I have just been so impressed every time we play them, how he plays offensively and defensively. Is he going to be starstruck at the tournament? I don't believe that for one second. I think he's going to be real good and we'll see how it works out."

Doughty will probably play at some point because Babcock said, "We think we have minutes for everyone. No one is going to play the amount of minutes they play in the National Hockey League. We have made it very clear to our group that it's not about them, it’s not about me, it's about Canada."

-- Dan Rosen

Babcock not worried about Russian spies
2.15.2010 / 11:44 PM

A few of the Russian players were peaking in at Team Canada's practice today, but that didn't concern coach Mike Babcock one bit.

"The reality is there are not a whole lot of secrets here," Babcock said. "Most of these players, or a lot of these players play in the National Hockey League and know each other real good. We're not trying to hide anything from anybody. We're going to play on TV a few times before we'd ever get to Russia, so to me, I don't think that's any big deal.

"Just like we are, the Russians are very excited about their opportunity," he continued. "I am very impressed by the teams at this tournament. I think the talent level is fantastic. I think it could probably be the best hockey event of all time."

-- Dan Rosen

Hossa skates, but no Gaborik

2.15.2010 / 11:06 PM

It isn't bad enough that the Slovakian Olympic team drew into the toughest Group in round-robin play and must face arch-rival Czech Republic in its opening game. The Slovaks are banged up.

And at Monday night's practice, only one of Slovakia's top two forwards returned to the ice from the injuries that kept them out of their final NHL games before the Olympic break.

Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks took part in Slovakia's workout three days after being rocked by a hard hit by Atlanta's Colby Armstrong and having to miss the 'Hawks' game at Columbus Sunday.

But Marian Gaborik of the Rangers, who suffered a deep gash to his thigh a week ago in a practice collision with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, did not skate on Monday. Gaborik, who left the Rangers' game at Pittsburgh Saturday after only a few shifts, did not play in the Blueshirts' game Sunday vs. Tampa Bay. Both he and Rangers coach John Tortorella said they believe he'll be able to play in the Olympics. And perhaps the extra day off -- Slovakia doesn't begin play until Wednesday -- will enable Gaborik to avoid missing an Olympic game.

-- John Dellapina

Russians set to learn from one another
2.15.2010 / 9:16 PM

Pavel Datsyuk gets to bring some Detroit Red Wing structure to Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin and Ilya Kovalchuk gets to show Evgeni Malkin what he has learned about positioning in a couple of weeks as a New Jersey Devil when Team Russia opens its Olympic schedule Tuesday night against Latvia.

Datsyuk, the all-around marvel who has won Selke Trophies as well as contend for scoring titles, donned a black practice sweater for yesterday's first full practice of the Vancouver Games at Canada Hockey Place. On his left was Ovechkin. On his right was Semin.

"I know my job whether I'm on the Detroit Red Wings or the Russian national team," Datsyuk said. Presumably, that job will often require being the third forward high on the Russian Black Line.

The Russian Red Line was just as frighteningly power-packed. It had Kovalchuk on the left with Malkin in the middle and Maxim Afinogenov on the right. With defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Fedor Tyutin also clad in red, it made that quintet the only five-man unit among the four in Team Russia's system to be comprised exclusively of NHL players.

Elder statesman Sergei Fedorov centered Alexander Radulov and Viktor Kozlov on the White Line of three former NHLers.

On defense, Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens went through every drill without much apparent difficulty -- and with partner Anton Volchenkov of the Ottawa Senators. Afterward, though, he conceded that he is not at 100 percent because of an undisclosed injury that caused him to miss the Canadiens' last two games before the Olympic break.

-- John Dellapina


Luongo in the opener, Brodeur on Thursday
2.15.2010 / 9:14 PM

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock announced that Roberto Luongo will start against Norway on Tuesday while Martin Brodeur will be Canada's goalie against Switzerland on Thursday.

From there, Babcock will use the results to decide who starts Sunday against Team USA.

"This is what I thought: Lu is from here and he was going to play in one of them, and Marty has played a ton of hockey so this buys him a little time," Babcock said. "We talked about it and that's what we came up with."

-- Dan Rosen

Gleason family always believed
2.15.2010 / 8:27 PM ET

Once Team USA announced its roster, Tim Gleason thought his Olympic dream had died when he wasn't among the seven defensemen picked.

But his family never lost the faith.

"My dad never cancelled his (Olympic) tickets," Gleason said Monday. "He got his tickets about four months ago. When I wasn't chosen, he was like, 'You know what, I'm not giving those tickets up,' and I was like, 'What are you doing? Oh well, I guess we will see what happens.' Luckily, I got chosen."

Gleason, a Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, was named as an injury replacement two weeks ago, along with Anaheim's Ryan Whitney, when New Jersey's Paul Martin and Toronto's Mike Komisarek were forced to abdicate their roster spots because of slow-healing injuries.

"I didn't book any trips myself," Gleason said. "I was kind of waiting in the weeds and hoping for something good and that is what happened."

Now, the tickets -- a symbol of the faith a father had in his son -- will be used for their original purpose.

"He did have security on them, so that was a good thing because they were pricey; but it was a cool thing," Gleason said. "I said at the time, that's a little more pressure on me. But, it worked out in the end and they are happier than heck and they are in town today."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Canada's practice lines and pairings
2.15.2010 / 7:41 PM ET

Here is what Canada's forward lines look like as they are practicing right now.

Nash-Crosby-Bergeron
Staal-Getzlaf-Perry
Marleau-Thornton-Heatley
Morrow-Toews-Iginla

It appears Mike Richards is the 13th forward.

The D-pairings look like this:

Boyle-Pronger
Keith-Seabrook
Weber-Niedermayer

Looks like Doughty is the seventh D.

-- Dan Rosen

Thoresen recovered, thankfully
2.15.2010 / 6:11 PM ET

Flyers fans may remember Patrick Thoresen, but not for his stay in Philadelphia, which lasted all of 21 regular-season games and 14 playoff games at the end of the 2007-08 season.

No, you probably remember him for the injury, and you know the one we're talking about. How could any man ever forget it?

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington two years ago, Thoresen unfortunately took a Mike Green slap shot right off of his private parts. He went down in a heap. When he went into the dressing room, he said he undressed and saw his protection had caved in. There was significant swelling.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, in addressing the media that night at Verizon Center, said it was possible that Thoresen would need surgery and maybe, just maybe, have one of his testicles removed.

And, all at once, we wince. But, Thoresen is OK and he actually never missed a game.

"I'm recovered, all good," Thoresen happily said. "It was very painful and nothing I suggest for anybody. I felt good a couple of days after, but at the time, I wish I was dying."

Thoresen hasn't returned to the NHL since the Flyers were ousted by Pittsburgh in the semifinals. He played in Switzerland last season and this season is playing in Russia. He is one of Norway's key players in the Olympics and the Norwegians have the unenviable task of playing Canada in their opening game.

"We know we're going to play a really good team with 23 superstars while we have none," Thoresen said. "I think the key for us will be the team. We have been together for five, six, seven years now so we know each other very well and hopefully the Canadians didn't have time enough to get to know each other very well. That's maybe our advantage. The rest of the advantages they have on their side, but we're going to go out there and show them that we're going to play with heart, sacrifice ourselves for each other and at the end of the day we'll see what happens."

Let's just hope that part of Thoresen's sacrifice doesn't mean he has to take another slap shot off of his you know whats.

-- Dan Rosen

Nice to see you, again

2.15.2010 / 5:02 PM ET

Jaromir Jagr turned 38 today. That he did so with some North American reporters around to ask him about it gave him an opportunity to engage in the witty repartee without which Jags would not be Jags.

"In Russia, I would have been given gifts," he told the reporters who greeted him after he left the ice at the Britannia Centre, where he and his Czech teammates practiced in anticipation of their Olympic opener against rival Slovakia Wednesday night.

That Jagr isn't playing his club hockey in North America - he is in his second season with Omsk of the KHL after failing to re-sign with the Rangers two years ago - is a shame. At least it is according to Czech goaltender Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers.

"Honestly, I still know this is the best league in the world," Vokoun said. "And I think it's sad when a player of that caliber and for all he did for hockey leaves and plays somewhere else. I think, even if he's a 50- 60-point guy, he could have ended up as one of the highest-point players in NHL history.

"I was sad to see him leave. He had an unbelievable career. And being from the Czech Republic, it was tough for me to see him leave. It would be the same thing if I saw, say, Steve Yzerman play in Germany for the last couple of years of his career. Those type of players aren't those that should go through that."

Having practiced just once with Jagr since arriving in Vancouver himself yesterday, Vokoun says he has no doubts that Jagr could return to the NHL and be a high-impact player.

"Absolutely," Vokoun said. "I don't think he would be competing with Ovechkin and Crosby. But he's way, way better than, I would say, 75 percent of NHL players. He's got skill, he's got the size. He can still skate. I think he would still be a star player."

Unless and until Jagr makes his way back to the world's premiere hockey league, Vokoun and the other NHLers on the Czech team plan to treasure their time here with No. 68 over the next two weeks.

"He's the most decorated player in Czech history," Vokoun said. "He's the oldest guy too. It's natural, if you have any respect for the game, you have to respect people like that. It's natural for hockey players.

"Ever since I've been in this league, people have a lot of respect. It's a hard game and things happen. But, for the most part, players respect the guys who came before them. And definitely, everybody in that room respects him - it's something very special."

"Absolutely. I don't think he would be competing with Ovechkin and Crosby. But he's way, way better than, I would say, 75 percent of NHL players. He's got skill, he's got the size. He can still skate. I think he would still be a star player."

-- John Dellapina

Why the Sharks' trio should work for Team Canada
2.15.2010 / 4:54 PM ET

San Jose coach Todd McLellan didn't want to simplify it too much, but he did anyway. Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have chemistry because, as McLellan told NHL.com, "Jumbo (Thornton) is a passer, Patty is a skater and Dany is a shooter."

That's why you'll likely see that trio together in Canada's opener Tuesday against Norway at Canada Hockey Place.

"It maybe is a little bit unfair to simplify their games the way I just did," McLellan added. "Their tool box is full, each of them, and that allows them to play a speed game, a grinding game, a finesse or a passing game because each has those tools. If you want to simplify the line, you have a passer, a skater and a shooter. That's why it works."

McLellan said he consulted with Steve Yzerman prior to the roster announcement on Dec. 30. He said he talked mostly about the chemistry they were creating on the ice as a line, and Yzerman was clearly impressed and interested.

It's no surprise that they all made it.

"I didn't have to tell Steve a lot. I think the players told him everything," McLellan said. "Once we put them together, from that day forward they were very dynamic. They've had impacts on every game they played. The fact that Steve would call and we would talk about them was just to reaffirm what he was seeing. It wasn't me selling and it wasn't Steve buying, it was the players doing what they were supposed to do.

"Every night it's something different," he added. "It could be Patty's speed or Heater getting a big goal. I think that's what is really been able to keep them going. It isn't one guy who is the catalyst. Somebody takes charge and the other two feed off of it."

So, does he think they will play together for the entire tournament?

"That's Mike's job," McLellan said, referring to Babcock. "I know him as the whole hockey world does and he's a capable coach and he's going to use those players as he sees fit. Chemistry is important, but winning is the ultimate. If it means breaking them up to win he'll do it. They will read body language and energy levels and they may be together or they may be apart. As long as you're winning you like it. It's as simple as that."

-- Dan Rosen

Elias feeling good, ready for big opener

2.15.2010 / 4:00 PM ET

Patrik Elias got to play in five games with New Jersey before the Olympics after missing 10 games with a concussion, and the Czech captain says that's plenty for him to feel good and raring to go entering the tournament.

Elias was belted on a hit by Colorado's Ryan Wilson on Jan. 16. He was put on injured reserve by the Devils, but returned Feb. 6 and had a goal and three assists in five games before the break.

"It happened a long time before the tournament started here so I wasn't worried," Elias told NHL.com. "Obviously there was a time when you're not feeling great so you kind of think about it, but I came back and played five games and that was plenty for me to know I will be OK."

Elias said he got to Vancouver Sunday morning and was able to get 10 hours of sleep Sunday night into Monday to get his body clock operating on Pacific Coast time. He was with the Czechs during their 45-minute practice Monday at Canada Hockey Place.

"It's in our nature that when we get to these tournaments we do have a lot of fun," Elias said. "The hockey is a little bit different and the mentality behind the hockey is a little bit different. There are a lot of creative guys. We're here obviously to accomplish something special. We're still missing a few guys today at practice. We didn't have a full squad, but it was a good 45 minutes to loosen up, move around a little bit and you can see there was excitement. Tomorrow it'll be all about business."

The Czechs don't open the tournament until Wednesday when they play their arch rivals and former countrymen from Slovakia in what could be the best game of the first two days of the tournament.

Elias said this is the Czechs chance to prove that they belong among the elite in international hockey. After winning gold in Nagano 12 years ago, the Czechs have dropped to sixth in the IIHF rankings. They won bronze four years ago in Torino.

Slovakia, by the way, is ranked 10th by the IIHF, but has firepower with Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik leading the way.

"Before Nagano nobody talk about Czech either, but it happened, we won tournament and obviously we had more success at the international level because we had good goaltending and sometimes that's all it takes," Elias said. "There were a lot of question marks about Czech hockey slowing down and not having too many young guys drafted. It's like anything in life. You go through ups and downs and when you go through downs you pay more attention to what might be wrong. You pay more attention to the youth. For us, being in this position, I think it's a great challenge."

-- Dan Rosen



Refer back to our Road to Vancouver blog for extensive coverage leading up to the Olympics