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Wilson won't put added pressure on top line

Tuesday, 02.23.2010 / 8:06 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Shawn P. Roarke - NHL.com Senior Managing Editor

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Wilson won't put added pressure on top line
Team USA coach Ron Wilson remains optimistic that top wingers such as Pat Kane and Zach Parise will begin contributing offensively when the Americans face Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon.
VANCOUVER -- Team USA has 14 goals in its first three games at the Olympics. Yet, the Americans have not gotten much production for the acknowledged scorers on their roster.
 
Chicago's Pat Kane was expected to be the main sniper for the Americans, but he has only scored once. Zach Parise and Phil Kessel were also brought in for their offense. Neither has a goal yet.
 
Tuesday, moments after Team USA found out it would play Switzerland in Wednesday's quarterfinal (3 p.m. ET), American coach Ron Wilson tried to deflect some of the pressure his marksmen, as well as No. 1 center Paul Statsny, are surely starting to feel.
 
"No, I don't need scoring from them," Wilson said "I just need goals from wherever they come. We're not putting pressure on those guys; just play the best and whoever scores, that's great. We're a team. It's not the first line has to score or anything like that. We just need goals."
 
Certainly, goals will be welcomed from up and down the lineup.
 
But, there is no denying that the Americans will be hard-pressed to reach their goal of winning the goal medal -- a road that was made easier with their top-seed performance in the preliminary line -- without some scoring from a trio that managed 106 goals during the 2008-09 NHL season and already has 74 this year.
 
In fact, you didn't have to read between too many lines to know that GM Brian Burke was targeting some of his scorers Monday afternoon when he talked about having just 10 players pulling on the rope and that this Olympic tournament had to be an all-hands-on-deck affair.
 
That's the way that Kane took it.
 
"Obviously, what he said is probably all in good intention, but at the same time I knew that, myself, that I have another level," Kane told NHL.com. "It's not that he needs to say it. I know myself I can do it.
 
"I'm not worried about it. I love playing hockey, being part of the game and doing good things on the ice. I know I'll be better."
 
But, already, time is running out. At a maximum, the Americans have just three games left if they reach the gold-medal showdown. A three-game drought during a long 82-game NHL season can be pushed aside, but it is not as easy to do that when you haven't scored for half a tournament and the stakes are exponentially larger than a run of games during the NHL's dog days.
 
"I feel like I am playing well and getting good scoring chances," Parise told NHL.com. "In the NHL, three games is nothing; but here you're like, 'I haven't scored in half the tournament.'"
 
And, it is hard to see the pressure from that thought process ratchet up as the stakes get bigger, starting with Wednesday's quarterfinal against a defensively-sound Swiss team. Now, every goal -- or missed opportunity -- could mean the difference between moving another game closer to a gold medal and going home disappointed.
 
"You just focus on the next (game)," said Stastny, who has no points despite entering the tournament with 42 assists this season. "That's what you do whether you're playing a long season or short season. You always have to forget about what happened before and focus on the next thing."
 
For the Americans, the next thing is a tricky Swiss team, which beat Belarus 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday in the qualifying round. The Americans opened the tournament against Switzerland and struggled to generate offense against a team of talented skaters who are determined to clog up the middle of the ice and slow the transition game against more skilled opponents.
 
In fact, the Swiss also frustrated the Canadian scorers in pool play, dropping a 3-2 shootout decision.
 
"Sometimes in this tournament you have to play a chess match and I know the Swiss are going to want to play that chess match," said American goalie Ryan Miller. "To get this far, you have to put your best game out there to win.
 
Team USA GearNow, the Americans are waiting anxiously for their big guns to find their range as they chase Olympic glory.
 
Kane, for one, was almost defiant in his belief that his time had arrived, despite precious little evidence to back up that assertion.
 
"You know what? I don't think I have been great," he told NHL.com. "But at the same time, I know there is another level I can get to and I'm excited about that.
 
"Our team is playing good, obviously, and I even think our team has another level in the tank. To be honest with you, I have expected a lot more of myself and I feel I can be one of the best players in the League. I'd like to prove that in the next three games and hopefully bring a gold medal back to the country."