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Blackhawks' Olympians again united for one goal

by Brian Compton
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- After a memorable two weeks at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, seven players who participated in the pulsating tournament will be at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Tuesday night.

Six members of the Chicago Blackhawks -- Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Tomas Kopecky, along with New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, return to NHL action on Long Island as part of a busy 12-game schedule.

Kane and Toews -- the faces of the Chicago franchise -- were on opposing benches in Vancouver and went head-to-head in Sunday's gold-medal game. Toews scored in Canada's 3-2 overtime victory against the United States.

Now, though, they're back to sharing the same dressing room and have just one goal in mind the rest of the way -- to deliver Chicago its first Stanley Cup title in 49 years.

"It's going to be busy," Toews said after his team skated Tuesday morning. "But for those of us who have been playing the last couple of weeks, we'll just jump right back in and keep playing the way we have. I know the two Slovaks (Hossa and Kopecky) played great, and so did Kaner. We're all feeling pretty confident off what we all accomplished out there. I think we're all happy to be back together."

Keith also is excited to get things going with the Blackhawks again. Chicago enters Tuesday's action atop the Central Division with a record of 41-15-5, just two points behind the San Jose Sharks for the top seed in the Western Conference.

"It feels good to be back," Keith said. "I think we're all excited to be back and see the guys. It's nice to get going again."

Kane didn't return to his NHL team as jubilant as Toews and Keith, and understandably so. Team USA erased a 2-1 deficit with just 24.4 seconds left in regulation on a goal by New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise, only to lose 7:40 into overtime when Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby beat Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller for the gold.

Nonetheless, Kane is focused on the task at hand -- helping Chicago earn the top spot in the West. The process begins immediately on Long Island.

"It was great to see everyone," Kane said. "You come in the locker room and everyone's got smiles on their face and they were real happy to see us. Obviously right now we have to get back in the swing of things. Coming off a break, you want to come in and make sure you have a good first game."

Streit, whose Switzerland team forced Canada to a shootout in group play and entered the third period of their quarterfinal game against the U.S. in a scoreless tie, was thrilled to be involved in the Olympic festivities.

"It was an unbelievable experience," said Streit, who captained the Swiss entry. "I've played a lot of international hockey in my career, but that was by far the best tournament. I played tons of minutes. It was an unforgettable time. I couldn't say one bad word about it."

Streit was one of two current NHL players on Switzerland's roster. The other was Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller, who was sensational in the tournament, posting a 2.47 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

"I thought we left our mark," Streit said of his team. "We played pretty well. We battled hard every game, and there were some close games. Even against the U.S. in the quarterfinals, we had our chances. We can be proud of what we did."

So can Islanders coach Scott Gordon, who was an assistant to Ron Wilson for Team USA. It was Gordon's second trip to the Olympics; he represented the U.S. as a player at the 1992 games in Albertville, France.  

"It was unbelievable," Gordon said. "I didn't expect it was a possibility that I'd be going back to another Olympics, and I'm very fortunate that I got that opportunity. I can't say enough about the players. They did a tremendous job."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter at: @BComptonNHL

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