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Destination: Vancouver

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames
Babcock: Doughty is one of the best

2.15.2010 / 11:52 PM

Drew Doughty may not dress for Canada's Olympic opener Tuesday against Norway, but that didn't stop Mike Babcock from heaping oceans of praise on the young L.A. defenseman Monday.

"I think Doughty has been one of the best defenseman in the National Hockey League this year," Babcock said. "I think he has been that good. I have just been so impressed every time we play them, how he plays offensively and defensively. Is he going to be starstruck at the tournament? I don't believe that for one second. I think he's going to be real good and we'll see how it works out."

Doughty will probably play at some point because Babcock said, "We think we have minutes for everyone. No one is going to play the amount of minutes they play in the National Hockey League. We have made it very clear to our group that it's not about them, it’s not about me, it's about Canada."

-- Dan Rosen

Babcock not worried about Russian spies
2.15.2010 / 11:44 PM

A few of the Russian players were peaking in at Team Canada's practice today, but that didn't concern coach Mike Babcock one bit.

"The reality is there are not a whole lot of secrets here," Babcock said. "Most of these players, or a lot of these players play in the National Hockey League and know each other real good. We're not trying to hide anything from anybody. We're going to play on TV a few times before we'd ever get to Russia, so to me, I don't think that's any big deal.

"Just like we are, the Russians are very excited about their opportunity," he continued. "I am very impressed by the teams at this tournament. I think the talent level is fantastic. I think it could probably be the best hockey event of all time."

-- Dan Rosen

Hossa skates, but no Gaborik

2.15.2010 / 11:06 PM

It isn't bad enough that the Slovakian Olympic team drew into the toughest Group in round-robin play and must face arch-rival Czech Republic in its opening game. The Slovaks are banged up.
 
And at Monday night's practice, only one of Slovakia's top two forwards returned to the ice from the injuries that kept them out of their final NHL games before the Olympic break.
 
Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks took part in Slovakia's workout three days after being rocked by a hard hit by Atlanta's Colby Armstrong and having to miss the 'Hawks' game at Columbus Sunday.
 
But Marian Gaborik of the Rangers, who suffered a deep gash to his thigh a week ago in a practice collision with goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, did not skate on Monday. Gaborik, who left the Rangers' game at Pittsburgh Saturday after only a few shifts, did not play in the Blueshirts' game Sunday vs. Tampa Bay. Both he and Rangers coach John Tortorella said they believe he'll be able to play in the Olympics. And perhaps the extra day off -- Slovakia doesn't begin play until Wednesday -- will enable Gaborik to avoid missing an Olympic game.

-- John Dellapina

Russians set to learn from one another
2.15.2010 / 9:16 PM

Pavel Datsyuk gets to bring some Detroit Red Wing structure to Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin and Ilya Kovalchuk gets to show Evgeni Malkin what he has learned about positioning in a couple of weeks as a New Jersey Devil when Team Russia opens its Olympic schedule Tuesday night against Latvia.
 
Datsyuk, the all-around marvel who has won Selke Trophies as well as contend for scoring titles, donned a black practice sweater for yesterday's first full practice of the Vancouver Games at Canada Hockey Place. On his left was Ovechkin. On his right was Semin.
 
"I know my job whether I'm on the Detroit Red Wings or the Russian national team," Datsyuk said. Presumably, that job will often require being the third forward high on the Russian Black Line.
 
The Russian Red Line was just as frighteningly power-packed. It had Kovalchuk on the left with Malkin in the middle and Maxim Afinogenov on the right. With defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Fedor Tyutin also clad in red, it made that quintet the only five-man unit among the four in Team Russia's system to be comprised exclusively of NHL players.
 
Elder statesman Sergei Fedorov centered Alexander Radulov and Viktor Kozlov on the White Line of three former NHLers.
 
On defense, Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens went through every drill without much apparent difficulty -- and with partner Anton Volchenkov of the Ottawa Senators. Afterward, though, he conceded that he is not at 100 percent because of an undisclosed injury that caused him to miss the Canadiens' last two games before the Olympic break.

-- John Dellapina



Luongo in the opener, Brodeur on Thursday
2.15.2010 / 9:14 PM

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock announced that Roberto Luongo will start against Norway on Tuesday while Martin Brodeur will be Canada's goalie against Switzerland on Thursday.

From there, Babcock will use the results to decide who starts Sunday against Team USA.

"This is what I thought: Lu is from here and he was going to play in one of them, and Marty has played a ton of hockey so this buys him a little time," Babcock said. "We talked about it and that's what we came up with."

-- Dan Rosen

Gleason family always believed
2.15.2010 / 8:27 PM ET

Once Team USA announced its roster, Tim Gleason thought his Olympic dream had died when he wasn't among the seven defensemen picked.
 
But his family never lost the faith.
 
"My dad never cancelled his (Olympic) tickets," Gleason said Monday. "He got his tickets about four months ago. When I wasn't chosen, he was like, 'You know what, I'm not giving those tickets up,' and I was like, 'What are you doing? Oh well, I guess we will see what happens.' Luckily, I got chosen."
 
Gleason, a Carolina Hurricanes defenseman, was named as an injury replacement two weeks ago, along with Anaheim's Ryan Whitney, when New Jersey's Paul Martin and Toronto's Mike Komisarek were forced to abdicate their roster spots because of slow-healing injuries.
 
"I didn't book any trips myself," Gleason said. "I was kind of waiting in the weeds and hoping for something good and that is what happened."
 
Now, the tickets -- a symbol of the faith a father had in his son -- will be used for their original purpose.
 
"He did have security on them, so that was a good thing because they were pricey; but it was a cool thing," Gleason said. "I said at the time, that's a little more pressure on me. But, it worked out in the end and they are happier than heck and they are in town today."

--Shawn P. Roarke

Canada's practice lines and pairings
2.15.2010 / 7:41 PM ET

Here is what Canada's forward lines look like as they are practicing right now.

Nash-Crosby-Bergeron
Staal-Getzlaf-Perry
Marleau-Thornton-Heatley
Morrow-Toews-Iginla

It appears Mike Richards is the 13th forward.

The D-pairings look like this:

Boyle-Pronger
Keith-Seabrook
Weber-Niedermayer

Looks like Doughty is the seventh D.

-- Dan Rosen

Thoresen recovered, thankfully
2.15.2010 / 6:11 PM ET

Flyers fans may remember Patrick Thoresen, but not for his stay in Philadelphia, which lasted all of 21 regular-season games and 14 playoff games at the end of the 2007-08 season.

No, you probably remember him for the injury, and you know the one we're talking about. How could any man ever forget it?

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against Washington two years ago, Thoresen unfortunately took a Mike Green slap shot right off of his private parts. He went down in a heap. When he went into the dressing room, he said he undressed and saw his protection had caved in. There was significant swelling.

Flyers GM Paul Holmgren, in addressing the media that night at Verizon Center, said it was possible that Thoresen would need surgery and maybe, just maybe, have one of his testicles removed.

And, all at once, we wince. But, Thoresen is OK and he actually never missed a game.

"I'm recovered, all good," Thoresen happily said. "It was very painful and nothing I suggest for anybody. I felt good a couple of days after, but at the time, I wish I was dying."

Thoresen hasn't returned to the NHL since the Flyers were ousted by Pittsburgh in the semifinals. He played in Switzerland last season and this season is playing in Russia. He is one of Norway's key players in the Olympics and the Norwegians have the unenviable task of playing Canada in their opening game.

"We know we're going to play a really good team with 23 superstars while we have none," Thoresen said. "I think the key for us will be the team. We have been together for five, six, seven years now so we know each other very well and hopefully the Canadians didn't have time enough to get to know each other very well. That's maybe our advantage. The rest of the advantages they have on their side, but we're going to go out there and show them that we're going to play with heart, sacrifice ourselves for each other and at the end of the day we'll see what happens."

Let's just hope that part of Thoresen's sacrifice doesn't mean he has to take another slap shot off of his you know whats.

-- Dan Rosen

Nice to see you, again

2.15.2010 / 5:02 PM ET

Jaromir Jagr turned 38 today. That he did so with some North American reporters around to ask him about it gave him an opportunity to engage in the witty repartee without which Jags would not be Jags.

"In Russia, I would have been given gifts," he told the reporters who greeted him after he left the ice at the Britannia Centre, where he and his Czech teammates practiced in anticipation of their Olympic opener against rival Slovakia Wednesday night.

That Jagr isn't playing his club hockey in North America - he is in his second season with Omsk of the KHL after failing to re-sign with the Rangers two years ago - is a shame. At least it is according to Czech goaltender Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers.

"Honestly, I still know this is the best league in the world," Vokoun said. "And I think it's sad when a player of that caliber and for all he did for hockey leaves and plays somewhere else. I think, even if he's a 50- 60-point guy, he could have ended up as one of the highest-point players in NHL history.

"I was sad to see him leave. He had an unbelievable career. And being from the Czech Republic, it was tough for me to see him leave. It would be the same thing if I saw, say, Steve Yzerman play in Germany for the last couple of years of his career. Those type of players aren't those that should go through that."

Having practiced just once with Jagr since arriving in Vancouver himself yesterday, Vokoun says he has no doubts that Jagr could return to the NHL and be a high-impact player.

"Absolutely," Vokoun said. "I don't think he would be competing with Ovechkin and Crosby. But he's way, way better than, I would say, 75 percent of NHL players. He's got skill, he's got the size. He can still skate. I think he would still be a star player."

Unless and until Jagr makes his way back to the world's premiere hockey league, Vokoun and the other NHLers on the Czech team plan to treasure their time here with No. 68 over the next two weeks.

"He's the most decorated player in Czech history," Vokoun said. "He's the oldest guy too. It's natural, if you have any respect for the game, you have to respect people like that. It's natural for hockey players.

"Ever since I've been in this league, people have a lot of respect. It's a hard game and things happen. But, for the most part, players respect the guys who came before them. And definitely, everybody in that room respects him - it's something very special."

"Absolutely. I don't think he would be competing with Ovechkin and Crosby. But he's way, way better than, I would say, 75 percent of NHL players. He's got skill, he's got the size. He can still skate. I think he would still be a star player."

-- John Dellapina

Why the Sharks' trio should work for Team Canada
2.15.2010 / 4:54 PM ET

San Jose coach Todd McLellan didn't want to simplify it too much, but he did anyway. Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton have chemistry because, as McLellan told NHL.com, "Jumbo (Thornton) is a passer, Patty is a skater and Dany is a shooter."

That's why you'll likely see that trio together in Canada's opener Tuesday against Norway at Canada Hockey Place.

"It maybe is a little bit unfair to simplify their games the way I just did," McLellan added. "Their tool box is full, each of them, and that allows them to play a speed game, a grinding game, a finesse or a passing game because each has those tools. If you want to simplify the line, you have a passer, a skater and a shooter. That's why it works."

McLellan said he consulted with Steve Yzerman prior to the roster announcement on Dec. 30. He said he talked mostly about the chemistry they were creating on the ice as a line, and Yzerman was clearly impressed and interested.

It's no surprise that they all made it.

"I didn't have to tell Steve a lot. I think the players told him everything," McLellan said. "Once we put them together, from that day forward they were very dynamic. They've had impacts on every game they played. The fact that Steve would call and we would talk about them was just to reaffirm what he was seeing. It wasn't me selling and it wasn't Steve buying, it was the players doing what they were supposed to do.

"Every night it's something different," he added. "It could be Patty's speed or Heater getting a big goal. I think that's what is really been able to keep them going. It isn't one guy who is the catalyst. Somebody takes charge and the other two feed off of it."

So, does he think they will play together for the entire tournament?

"That's Mike's job," McLellan said, referring to Babcock. "I know him as the whole hockey world does and he's a capable coach and he's going to use those players as he sees fit. Chemistry is important, but winning is the ultimate. If it means breaking them up to win he'll do it. They will read body language and energy levels and they may be together or they may be apart. As long as you're winning you like it. It's as simple as that."

-- Dan Rosen

Elias feeling good, ready for big opener

2.15.2010 / 4:00 PM ET

Patrik Elias got to play in five games with New Jersey before the Olympics after missing 10 games with a concussion, and the Czech captain says that's plenty for him to feel good and raring to go entering the tournament.

Elias was belted on a hit by Colorado's Ryan Wilson on Jan. 16. He was put on injured reserve by the Devils, but returned Feb. 6 and had a goal and three assists in five games before the break.

"It happened a long time before the tournament started here so I wasn't worried," Elias told NHL.com. "Obviously there was a time when you're not feeling great so you kind of think about it, but I came back and played five games and that was plenty for me to know I will be OK."

Elias said he got to Vancouver Sunday morning and was able to get 10 hours of sleep Sunday night into Monday to get his body clock operating on Pacific Coast time. He was with the Czechs during their 45-minute practice Monday at Canada Hockey Place.

"It's in our nature that when we get to these tournaments we do have a lot of fun," Elias said. "The hockey is a little bit different and the mentality behind the hockey is a little bit different. There are a lot of creative guys. We're here obviously to accomplish something special. We're still missing a few guys today at practice. We didn't have a full squad, but it was a good 45 minutes to loosen up, move around a little bit and you can see there was excitement. Tomorrow it'll be all about business."

The Czechs don't open the tournament until Wednesday when they play their arch rivals and former countrymen from Slovakia in what could be the best game of the first two days of the tournament.

Elias said this is the Czechs chance to prove that they belong among the elite in international hockey. After winning gold in Nagano 12 years ago, the Czechs have dropped to sixth in the IIHF rankings. They won bronze four years ago in Torino.

Slovakia, by the way, is ranked 10th by the IIHF, but has firepower with Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik leading the way.

"Before Nagano nobody talk about Czech either, but it happened, we won tournament and obviously we had more success at the international level because we had good goaltending and sometimes that's all it takes," Elias said. "There were a lot of question marks about Czech hockey slowing down and not having too many young guys drafted. It's like anything in life. You go through ups and downs and when you go through downs you pay more attention to what might be wrong. You pay more attention to the youth. For us, being in this position, I think it's a great challenge."

-- Dan Rosen

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