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Practices moved to let players see U.S.-Canada game

Friday, 02.21.2014 / 2:06 AM / 2014 Olympics

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Practices moved to let players see U.S.-Canada game
The Edmonton Oilers are one of many NHL teams to move up their practice time Friday so their players can watch the semifinal game between Canada and the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Taylor Hall would much rather stay in bed. But the Edmonton Oilers forward will get up early for a good reason.

The Oilers are one of many NHL teams to move up their practice time Friday morning so their players can watch the semifinal game between Canada and the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Edmonton will practice at 8 a.m. MT prior to the 10 a.m. faceoff (noon ET; NBCSN, CBC).

"It wasn't [my idea], I'll tell you that," Hall said Thursday. "It will be nice to watch the game. I like to sleep in a little bit, but that's just me.

"But it is a huge game for our country and it will be nice to watch it with the rest of the nation."

Sweden and Finland play in the first semifinal at 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN, TSN). The New York Rangers will practice between games so they can pull for Swedish teammates Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin before picking sides when Americans Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh face Canadian Rick Nash.

"We're proud of them and we're rooting them on," forward Brian Boyle said. "We may have our own countries to root for, but we want our guys to do well. It's a great thing for us to have so many guys over there."

The games have turned usual locker-room razzing up a notch, with players around the League sticking up for their homelands.

"For those of us back here there is a bunch of general ribbing going on," Dallas Stars forward Erik Cole said. "I am sure if the Canadians lose there will be a pretty quiet group in here tomorrow and the few Americans we have on the team and amongst the training staff will certainly let them hear about it all day long."

The United States entered the tournament as an underdog but has played better than Canada, the gold medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"There's usually a lot of banter for a game like this, at least I remember last time there was, but the Canadians have kept pretty quiet. They might not feel it is a lock this time," Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "We'll see."

The Philadelphia Flyers will watch the game as a group, with the back-and-forth sure to be interesting. Defenseman Hal Gill, from Concord, Mass., seems to be a gold-medal agitator; "It's like there's five or six guys in one person," teammate Scott Hartnell said.

"Canada lives and dies with this tournament," said Gill, one of two Americans (Adam Hall) on the Flyers. "So I don't know what is more fun, rooting for the Americans to win or rooting for Canada to lose. Probably a little bit of both."

NHL teams are starting to get back players from teams no longer competing, including Russia and the Czech Republic.

"We've got a good split of Americans and Canadians. It's where the other groups of guys are going to fall," New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer told "Who is the Russian contingent going to cheer for now? And who are thew Czechs and the other guys in the room going to cheer for now? Those are the swing votes, so to speak, the [Anton] Volchenkovs of the world."

The winners play for the gold medal on Sunday. Losers compete for the bronze Saturday.

"I'm disappointed it's not for the gold medal," Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter said of the U.S.-Canada game. "… It's a flip of the coin. Goaltending, penalty, bad bounce … there won't be any surprises in it, that's for sure."

There certainly will be plenty of NHL players watching, with maybe more than simple bragging rights on the line.

"I haven't made any bets with the guys on the team yet," American Brian Gionta of the Montreal Canadiens said, "but I'm trying to find some takers."

Material from team websites was used in this report.