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U.S., Canadian players rush back to NHL action

Monday, 03.01.2010 / 6:32 PM / All-Access Vancouver

NHL.com

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U.S., Canadian players rush back to NHL action
Olympians make a mad dash back to their clubs as the NHL season kicks back into gear.
As soon as the gold-medal game between Canada and the United States was decided on Sunday, the 46 players making up the two nation’s rosters had travel plans to consider.

Jarome Iginla, who assisted on Sidney Crosby’s gold-winning goal in Canada’s 3-2 overtime victory, could be a bit more leisurely -- his Calgary Flames don’t play until Wednesday, when they host the Minnesota Wild. Iginla also had the shortest distance to travel, with only about 600 miles separating Vancouver and Calgary.

The same couldn’t be said for Mike Richards and Chris Pronger of the Philadelphia Flyers and Ryan Malone of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They had a distance of approximately 3,300 miles to travel in order to make it back to Tampa Bay for Tuesday’s contest between the Eastern Conference rivals.

All in all, 41 of the 46 Olympians from Canada and the U.S. had games scheduled for either Monday or Tuesday. Forward Paul Stastny and defenseman Brian Rafalski of Team USA are the first players to return to NHL action, as Stastny’s Colorado Avalanche host Rafalski’s Detroit Red Wings in Monday’s only game.

One of Tuesday’s featured matchups, the San Jose Sharks hosting the New Jersey Devils, features a whopping eight Olympians who played in Sunday’s tournament final. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley and Dan Boyle, who all won gold for Canada, will be reunited with U.S. forward Joe Pavelski as they put their Sharks jerseys back on.

Crosby, who beat Ryan Miller in overtime Sunday, will be in the same building as the goalie again Tuesday as the Pittsburgh Penguins welcome in the Buffalo Sabres. Miller, Crosby and two other Penguins, Marc-Andre Fleury and Brooks Orpik, had about 2,600 miles to travel from Vancouver after the Olympics. It isn’t likely Crosby will score on Miller in this game, however, as Sabres coach Lindy Ruff announced Monday he would give the start to backup Patrick Lalime.