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Crosby, Miller come off big showings in Vancouver

by John Kreiser
Sidney Crosby's stat line at the Winter Olympics will never do him justice.

Crosby went without a point in regulation for his final three games, but when Team Canada needed him most, "Sid the Kid" became "Sid the Gold Medal Winner," sliding a shot through Ryan Miller's legs in overtime to give Canada a 3-2 victory over the United States.

It was the second game-winner for Crosby, who also got the deciding goal in the shootout in the Canadians' second game to give them a 3-2 victory over Switzerland. If Crosby --the youngest captain of a Stanley Cup winning-team in NHL history -- wasn't already a Canadian hero, he is now.

Ironically, his first game with Pittsburgh comes Tuesday night against Buffalo -- and perhaps against Ryan Miller, the goaltender he scored the OT winner against.
Five up -- Five players who are coming off solid performances in Vancouver:

Ryan Miller -- Miller left Vancouver with a silver medal and the MVP award for the Olympic tournament. He was unquestionably the principal reason for Team USA's superb showing at the Games, and easily the best goaltender in the tournament.

Jonathan Toews --
Chicago's captain led Canada in assists and had the opening goal in Sunday's gold-medal game. He also went through the tournament without being on the ice for a goal against, and was named the tournament's top forward.

Brian Rafalski -- At 37, Rafalski was the oldest American Olympian -- and after Miller, arguably the best. He scored 4 goals, moved the puck superbly and provided a calming presence on the back line.

Pavol Demitra -- Demitra had a dynamite Olympics, putting up 10 points while helping Slovakia to a best-ever fourth-place finish. The Vancouver Canucks hope his hot streak continues when NHL play resumes.

Olli Jokinen --
The New York Rangers hope that getting the tying and go-ahead goals for Finland will spark a big performance from Jokinen down the stretch as they try to get back into the top eight in the East.

Five down -- Five players who are not:

Alex Ovechkin -- The two-time Hart Trophy winner would probably like to forget the Winter Games ever happened. He scored 2 goals against Latvia and flattened Jaromir Jagr in Russia's win over the Czechs, but didn't play well in his country's 7-3 rout at the hands of Team Canada in the quarterfinals. The Washington Capitals and their fans hope he takes out his frustrations on the rest of the NHL.

Henrik Lundqvist -- After playing seven consecutive shutout periods, Lundqvist and Team Sweden came unglued in the final 40 minutes of the quarterfinal against Slovakia. The New York Rangers' goaltender allowed four goals on five shots in a stunning 4-3 loss that bounced the defending gold-medal winners out of the tournament before the medal round.

Martin Brodeur --
Canada's Olympic success came with Brodeur on the bench. He wasn't sharp in the group play loss to the United States and spent the rest of the tournament backing up Roberto Luongo. He hadn't been playing well in the last couple weeks before the Games, and the only good news for the New Jersey Devils was that by getting benched, Brodeur did get some time off.

Evgeni Nabokov -- The last view most of us had of Nabokov was leaving the ice after allowing six goals to Canada in 24:07 of Russia's quarterfinal game. The San Jose Sharks hope he won't have a hangover when play resumes on Tuesday.

Miikka Kiprusoff -- He did lead Finland to the bronze medal. But for a lot of people, Olympic memories of Kiprusoff will include his first-period meltdown in the semifinal game against the United States.
Injuries, news and notes -- The two-week Olympic break gave a lot of injured players the chance to get healthy (or at least healthier) for the stretch run. Happily, there were remarkably few injuries at the Vancouver Games, meaning that most teams should be in relatively good shape for the stretch run.

Out -- St. Louis forward Keith Tkachuk will miss the next 10 days following surgery on his left pinky finger during the Olympics.

Returning -- Detroit defenseman Andreas Lilja will return to the lineup for Monday's game against Colorado. He's missed a year while recovering from a concussion. To make room for him, Detroit put forward Kirk Maltby on long-term IR; Maltby will have shoulder surgery. Detroit could also get forwards Patrick Eaves (ankle) and Tomas Holmstrom (knee) back on Monday. ... Boston hopes to have defenseman Mark Stuart (broken finger) back in the lineup on Tuesday. ... The New York Islanders will get some reinforcements on Tuesday -- forwards Josh Bailey (upper body) and Tim Jackman (broken orbital bone) and defenseman Jack Hillen (broken jaw) all are expected to be ready to go. ... Center Manny Malhotra (undisclosed injury) is expected to be back in San Jose's lineup on Tuesday against New Jersey. ... Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson (shoulder) practiced last week and is expected to return Tuesday. ... Carolina forwards Scott Walker (shoulder surgery) and Chad LaRose (upper body) are due back in the lineup on Tuesday.

Still out -- Calgary forward David Moss skated Saturday for the first time since being sidelined with an upper body injury in January. He's likely a week or so away from returning. ... Ottawa's Nick Foligno (broken leg) is about two weeks away from returning. ... Florida hopes forward Nathan Horton (broken leg) will be able to skate this week, but he'll need some time after that to get back into game shape. ... Columbus defenseman Rostislav Klesla (groin and abdomen) still isn't ready to play. He's been out since Nov. 30, and it's not impossible he could miss the rest of the season. ... Philadelphia defenseman Ryan Parent (back) is skating at practice but is likely to miss another week or two. ... New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin, who missed playing for Team USA due to a broken left forearm, is skating again but isn't likely to return until next week at the earliest. ... Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa (lacerated ankle tendons) was skating last week, but defenseman Willie Mitchell (concussion) was not. Neither is likely to play this week.

The week ahead -- With the Olympics now in the history books, more than 140 NHL players will be back with their teams for the six-week race for the playoffs. Everyone will be playing compressed schedules -- 16 teams have four games this week -- so off-time figures to be at a premium.

Games to watch:

Detroit at Colorado (March 1) -- The Red Wings and Avs mark the return of the NHL following the Olympic break with the only game on Monday night.

Buffalo at Pittsburgh (March 2) -- The scorer and goaltender on the OT winner in Sunday's gold-medal game -- Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller -- will be in the same building again when the Sabres resume play against Crosby and the Penguins.

Vancouver at Columbus (March 2) -- The Canucks begin play after the Olympic break just the way they ended it before the Games -- on the road. This game kicks off the last six games of the Canucks' 14-game trip.

New Jersey at San Jose (March 2) -- Versus will be on hand at the Shark Tank as the Devils make their first visit to San Jose since October 2006 in the final NHL game to be played before the trading deadline.

Detroit at Chicago (March 7) -- NBC's Game of the Week returns with a matchup between the two Central Division archrivals. The Hawks hope to move two points closer to ending Detroit nine-year right as division champs.

Tough week ahead:

New Jersey Devils -- The Devils' Olympians will have an easy trip to rejoin their teammates, but then New Jersey resumes its schedule in San Jose, followed by visits to the two Alberta teams.

Montreal Canadiens --
Like the Devils, the Habs also head West. Montreal resumes its season in Boston, then spends the weekend playing all three California teams in less than 72 hours.

Vancouver Canucks -- After two weeks off, the Canucks head back out on the road for the second half of their NHL-record 14-game trip. They visit Columbus, Detroit, Chicago and Nashville in a six-day stretch.   

Easy week ahead:

Columbus Blue Jackets --
Few teams get the chance to ease back into the schedule the way the Jackets do. They host Vancouver on Tuesday, then have three days off before beginning a West Coast trip at San Jose on Saturday.

Phoenix Coyotes -- The 'Yotes, one of the NHL's biggest pre-Olympic surprises, have a chance to pile up some more points -- they play all three games this week in the friendly confines of Arena.

San Jose Sharks --
Like their Pacific Division rivals, the Sharks also get to re-start their season at home. The Sharks get rare visits from New Jersey and Montreal before Western Conference rival Columbus comes to town.
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