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Canadian women provide inspiration for men's team

by Arpon Basu

SOCHI -- Canada had some inspiring visitors at its pregame skate Friday.

As the team prepared for its semifinal game against the United States at the training rink of the Bolshoy Ice Dome, sitting in the stands were two key players from Canada's women's team that won gold against the U.S. in a dramatic, come-from-behind 3-2 overtime victory 12 hours earlier.

Forward Hayley Wickenheiser and starting goaltender Shannon Szabados were there to support the men in their bid to move past the U.S. and reach the gold medal game Sunday.

When coach Mike Babcock stepped off the ice for his media availability, he walked right past reporters and straight to Wickenheiser and Szabados, giving each a hug to congratulate them for the big win.

"I bet they haven't been to bed," Babcock said after he returned to talk to the media. "They've probably been having a good time, as well they should be. They earned the opportunity. It's a special, special thing.

"It's hard, hard to win."

Canada is probably going to learn that lesson Friday when it faces the U.S., its stiffest test of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

There were no changes announced at the skate from what was seen a day earlier at practice, so Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith will not be in uniform.

Watching the women's team do what it did a night earlier definitely had an impact on the men's team. Anaheim Ducks right wing Corey Perry said the women's team provided an important lesson for the men to follow.

"Never quit," he said. "I mean, 3 1/2 minutes left and down 2-0, it's pretty remarkable that they had no quit in their step and they kept driving. It's not over until that buzzer goes."

Perry said he and most of his teammates watched the game on television in the lounge at their residence in the athletes' village. But Matt Duchene wanted to experience it firsthand, and he was happy he did.

"It was hard to go to sleep after that last night, that's for sure," the Colorado Avalanche center said. "I know all of the boys who were watching, whether it was at the game or back at the lounge there, were really excited. It was a great job by them. Outstanding."

Babcock managed to watch most of the Canadian women curling team's gold-medal victory Thursday in person, and the adrenaline resulting from watching his country with gold in two women's team sports a day earlier was coursing through his veins Friday.

"I'm pumped," Babcock said. "We're starting to look like a team and be like a team and you're organized like a team and you feel comfortable because you're not running around trying to do a million things. It's great. If you're Canadian, [Thursday] was a pretty good day, I think.

"Pretty special."

Here is the expected lineup for Canada:

Chris Kunitz - Sidney Crosby - Patrice Bergeron
Patrick Marleau - Jonathan Toews - Jeff Carter
Jamie Benn - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Patrick Sharp - Matt Duchene - Rick Nash
Martin St. Louis

Duncan Keith - Shea Weber
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Drew Doughty
Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo
Dan Hamhuis

Carey Price

Roberto Luongo

Scratched: P.K. Subban, Mike Smith

Injured: John Tavares

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