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Blais spends off-day working the penalty-kill

by Mike G. Morreale
EDMONTON - If there's one area of concern for U.S. National Junior Team coach Dean Blais following his team's 11-3 victory over Denmark in the 2012 World Junior Championship, it would be the team's penalty-killing.

After allowing 4 goals in 16 times short during three exhibition games prior to Monday's tournament opener at Rexall Place in Edmonton, the Danes connected for three power-play goals in as many attempts.

"That's not good," Blais told "Thank goodness we weren't taking a lot of penalties. We've got to move a little bit better. There were opportunities to get the puck out of the zone … it started with a lost faceoff. We've been really good on faceoffs, and you lose three and three pucks end up in the net instead of forcing them 200 feet back into our end."

The United States is one of three teams in the tournament, including Finland and Latvia, that has failed to kill an opposing power-play after one game. The Canadians (4-for-4), Russia (4-for-4) and Switzerland (3-for-3) are perfect on the penalty-kill.

Blais also noted that forward Connor Brickley, who left Monday's game after getting cut by a skate blade, is "doubtful" for Wednesday's game against the Finns at Rexall Place.

"He just stretched and tried to loosen up a little bit … it was pretty stiff," Blais said. "He'll ride the bike [Tuesday] afternoon and the more flexibility he gets out of that, the better chance he'll have to skate.

"Right now, he's kind of doubtful, but it could be a good recovery though. I don't think he'll be out too long. The thing is, if we play him, we want him 100 percent. We're not just going to put him out there to limp around."

Another interesting note retrieved from Blais' media availability was the fact the line of Austin Czarnik, Nick Bjugstad and Kyle Rau, which accounted for 3 goals and 2 assists in Monday's victory, might not remain intact against Finland.

"We're going to switch the lines according to what the other team has, so I'll end up screwing them up a little bit … but they're all good hockey players," Blais said. "Bjugsted is big, strong and rangy and dishes the puck out pretty well. Rau has energy and speed and Czarnik is kind of the same way. It doesn't really matter who is with who really. [T.J.] Tynan is another one of those little guys who is fast, can make plays and has that hockey sense."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale

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