Team USA and Capitals captain Chris Clark took the ice at practice on Wednesday. Although he was not out with the rest of Team USA at the beginning of the session, Clark joined his teammates on the ice midway through the session and tested his bruised leg, suffered in Saturday’s 3-0 qualifying round win over Germany.
He stayed out for the rest of the practice and graciously granted our crew a lengthy one-on-one interview, including his recollection of the hit that caused the injury. Clark incurred the bruise from a bodycheck in the offensive zone from a German defender.
“He was low,” said Clark. “It was a hip check, just low. I was completely by him except my leg was extended. That was the only thing that got hit. A little bump and bruise, but hopefully I’ll be all right.”
Team USA’s quarterfinal match is against Finland on Thursday.
Winger Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils arrived in Russia Wednesday morning after an all night flight and was at practice with his new Team USA teammates hours later. Parise must have flown first class and gotten a good night’s sleep because he looked swift and sharp to us at Wednesday’s practice.
Now it’s a matter of getting his body and mindset acclimated to the time change, and integrating him onto the team and the roster.
“That’s one of the challenges our team has faced just in putting together this team for this tournament,” said Team USA head coach Mike Sullivan. “trying to bring 20-some-odd guys together from different teams in a short period of time, get them on the same page and get them to buy into a system of play and a style of play that is going to help us be successful. Having said that, I think our guys have done a great job in grasping what we are trying to accomplish out there.
“I think Zach is an intelligent player. I think he is astute, and I think he has a great understanding of game awareness. I think it will be a seamless transition. I think a lot of what we do, he’ll be accustomed to. There will be subtle differences in how we play versus where he comes from. But I think he is a smart enough player and an intelligent enough person that he’ll adjust fine for us.”Helpers Wanted
Sweden’s Nicklas Backstrom
played a strong game on Wednesday (his best of the three we’ve seen here) against Slovakia, picking up an assist on the first of three Sweden goals in the second period. He initially was credited with a secondary assist on the third of those three goals.
On that play, Backstrom gained the offensive zone with the puck and waited for his trailing winger (Alex Steen) to gain the line. He fed a pass to Steen, who fired on goal. Slovakian goaltender Karol Krizan made a pad save, but the puck came right back to Steen. He casually dished it across the crease to linemate Johan Hedstrom, who wristed it into an empty net.
In the NHL, Backstrom would have been credited with an assist on that play. In IIHF play, apparently that’s not the case. Backstrom’s future Capitals teammate, Slovakian defenseman Milan Jurcina, was also credited with an assist over the arena public address system immediately after a goal was scored only to have it taken away when the final game sheets were published.Two Go Home
Two members of Washington’s contingent of World Championship players were eliminated from the competition on Wednesday when their teams went down to defeat in quarterfinal matches.
Jurcina’s Slovakia team was eliminated in a 7-4 setback to Team Sweden. At the conclusion of Wednesday night’s action, Jurcina was tied for eighth in the tournament with a plus-6 defensive rating. He finished the tournament with a goal, two points, eight PIM and 11 shots on goal. His goal came on the power play.
Jiri Novotny and the Czech Republic team fell by a 4-0 score to Team Russia on Wednesday. Novotny, who was among the tournament’s face-off percentage leaders earlier in the week, no longer qualifies for that list because he has not taken enough draws. He played the best game we saw from him in the loss to Russia. Novotny made some good plays at both ends, and seemed to get more ice time than usual. He appeared in six of the Czech Republic’s seven games and was held off the scoresheet with eight PIM and eight shots on goal.
Former Cap Petr Sykora also played for the Czechs. He totaled two goals, five points, four PIM, a plus-1 and 20 shots on goal in seven contests. One of Sykora’s goals came on the power play.Home Cooking
Moscow native Alexei Morozov was Pittsburgh’s first choice (24th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. He spent seven seasons with the Pens, totaling as many as 20 goals (2001-02) and 50 points (2003-04). He returned to Russia in the lockout season of 2004-05 to play for Kazan Ak-Bars and has been here ever since.
The 30-year-old Morozov has had three straight great seasons in the Russian Super League, and he has been a dominant player at the Worlds this year as well. With Team Russian, Morozov has played alongside Denis Zaripov and Sergei Zinoviev. Zaripov and Zinoviev are Morozov’s linemates with Kazan Ak-Bars, and the familiarity hasn’t hurt any of them.
Morozov leads all players in the tournament with eight goals, and is tied for the lead with 13 points and a plus-9 defensive rating. Zinoviev is third in the tournament with 12 points and Zaripov is sixth with 10.
Zinoviev got into 10 games with Boston in 2003-04, the sum of his NHL experience. Zaripov has not skated in North America since playing junior hockey with the Swift Current Broncos in 1998-99. The trio is opening some eyes in Moscow and each of the three could find himself getting some calls from the NHL this summer.Can’t Get There From Here
Down two goals with 1:14 remaining, Slovakia’s comeback hopes were dashed in part because it was without two of its best players. Pavol Demitra was given a minor penalty for checking from behind and a 10-minute misconduct at that point. Linemate Marian Gaborik was in the box serving the waning seconds of a 10-minute misconduct of his own.
The third member of that deadly Slovakian trio that terrorized defensemen and goaltenders throughout the tournament is Marian Hossa. Although he avoided taking a misconduct penalty, Hossa had a tough night in his own right. He was minus-4.
Sweden did a great job of shutting down that dangerous Slovakian line. Hossa scored the game’s first goal just 2:10 into the game, scoring a power play goal with help from Gaborik. The Swedes adjusted on the fly after the Slovaks dominated the first five minutes of the game. Their defensemen were very adept at using their bodies and sticks to keep pucks and Slovaks from the middle of the ice. Back to the WashingtonCaps.com IIHF World Championship Coverage