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Team USA's lines and pairs during first practice

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Okay's starting to get real.

First off: I can't get enough of the photo above. It's a lot of America.


As I type this, it's approaching 11 p.m. in Sochi, Russia, where several of the 2014 men's Olympic hockey teams have wrapped up their first practices. Russia was first to go this morning and there was plenty of buzz about Alex Ovechkin practicing on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Semin, and also goaltending questions; is it going to be Sergei Bobrovsky or Semyon Varlamov leading off for the Russians?

No one's giving it away, so we have to wait a couple more days.

Also on the ice today was Team USA, which took a team photo on the ice before beginning its first practice under head coach Dan Bylsma (Pittsburgh Penguins), assistant coaches Todd Richards (Blue Jackets), Tony Granato (Penguins) and Peter Laviolette.

While many consider Canada and Russia to be the favorites for gold at these Olympics, the United States proved in 2010 that it's never wise to sleep on the Americans. It's going to be a tall task to reach the podium in 2014, but the American core is four years older and many of the players have Olympic experience to lean on.

Now, for the juicy details.'s crew is on site in Sochi and took in Team USA's first practice; here's their report on the lines and pairs today...

Dustin Brown - Ryan Kesler - Patrick Kane

Zach Parise - David Backes - TJ Oshie

James van Riemsdyk - Joe Pavelski - Phil Kessel

Max Pacioretty - Paul Stastny - Ryan Callahan

Ryan McDonagh - John Carlson

Cam Fowler - Ryan Suter

Kevin Shattenkirk - Paul Martin

Brooks Orpik - Justin Faulk

An interesting and deep group, from this vantage point. Bylsma is employing a similar strategy to these lines as he uses with the Penguins; there's scoring on each unit and the United States has a strong presence at center ice.

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