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For Lewis, a coaching challenge with Belarus

by Greg Inglis
As Belarus prepares to take on Switzerland in the first of four games Tuesday in the Olympic qualification playoff round, Kevin Woodley of the Associated Press talks to a familiar face behind their bench: former Red Wings and Bruins head coach Dave Lewis.

"Lewis is at the Olympics as an assistant coach for Belarus, an unlikely spot for the man who replaced Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman in Detroit eight years ago. Lewis also coached the Boston Bruins in 2006-07, and was an assistant in Los Angeles the following season, but was out of the spotlight until emerging behind the Belarus bench in Vancouver.

"As challenging as the path to Vancouver was, so is his job on the ice here. His words are translated by someone with little or no hockey background, and Lewis often has no idea if his message is even being relayed correctly. Having Ruslan Salei, a longtime NHL player and captain of Belarus, helps. So does a long history with the first wave of Russian NHL stars that played in Detroit.

"Hockey is an international language itself," Lewis said. "I dealt with Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Fedorov and you can teach them on the board, you can teach them on the ice, and you can teach them with video and try to get that message across. The problem is the emotion of what you are trying to get across is maybe lost in translation. It doesn't have the same passion."

Passion certainly will not be lacking in today's second game, when host Canada meets Germany.

From the streets of Vancouver to talk shows in St. John's, Newfoundland, Canadians are engaging in the quadrennial ritual of placing the nation's men's hockey team under intense scrutiny.

"Hockey is an international language itself. I dealt with Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Fedorov and you can teach them on the board, you can teach them on the ice, and you can teach them with video and try to get that message across. The problem is the emotion of what you are trying to get across is maybe lost in translation. It doesn't have the same passion." -- Dave Lewis

"Nothing in Canada unites, excites, frustrates or angers the nation as much as its hockey team," writes Alan Robinson with the Associated Press.

"Hockey fans and that's about 90 percent of the populace frantically searched Internet news accounts for word on whether Martin Brodeur is out and Roberto Luongo is in as goalie for a game Tuesday nobody anticipated. (The answer: Yes.)

"Across the provinces, the conversations no doubt were the same: Where's Sidney Crosby? Why couldn't Brodeur stop shooters he once faced every day in practice? Why is the Olympic team most of them NHL all-stars taking so many penalties? Why are so many shots being stopped? Why is this happening again?

"Why? Why? Why?"

"Steve Yzerman has a message for Canadian hockey fans: Take a deep breath," reports the Canadian Press from yesterday's Team Canada press briefing.

"While many across the country fret about the fortunes of the Olympic men's hockey team, the executive director remains both calm and confident that the 23 men he chose to wear the Maple Leaf will get their act together in time to make a run at gold."

Yzerman's appearance evoked memories of a similar episode in Canada's Olympic past, according to Wayne Scanlan of the Ottawa Citizen.

"Eight years ago, Wayne Gretzky spoke out, angrily, to lash back at critics and lift his Canadian team," Scanlan writes. "Now, it's Steve Yzerman's turn, with Canada in a situation that bears at least some similarities to the early "crisis" at Salt Lake City in 2002. Gretzky spoke after a loss to Sweden and a tie with the Czech Republic, his Canadian team off to a dreadful start and the butt of cruel jokes in the United States.

"I'm tired of people taking shots at Canadian hockey," Gretzky said. "... The whole world wants us to lose."

"At this Olympic tournament, Yzerman, Canada's executive director, is overseeing a group playing much better than the '02 team out of the gate (and infinitely better than the 2006 Turin team that never launched), and he saw no cause to echo Gretzky's rant.

"We've all been in these situations, in playoffs and what not, you just stick with it," Yzerman said. "They're taking a little bit of time to settle down, and that's been our history with international teams. It takes a little time to get it going."

German forward Marco Sturm knows what his club is up against:

"They're p---ed off, obviously, and they want to win," Sturm told the Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson. They want to go for gold. They're not going to mess around. We've got to be ready for them. It'll be a miracle.

"Our goalie has got to be unbelievable. Those chances we have, we've just got to make sure they go in. I think that was the big difference against Sweden, we had a 5-on-3 and should have scored, but it went back the other way. Everything has to be perfect to beat these guys, but we've got to be realistic. We are big underdogs."

"The Germans appeared relaxed Monday, saying all the pressure is squarely on Canadian shoulders," according to Andy Blatchford with the Canadian Press.

"The Canadian loss to the United States showed the Germans that even Canada's star players make errors, said German head coach Uwe Krupp.

"With that lineup, it's important for all players to see that they're human, that there are mistakes being made," said Krupp, a former NHL defenseman who buried the Stanley Cup-winning goal for the Colorado Avalanche in 1996.

"Most members of the German team play for pro clubs in that country, but a few will feel right at home playing in Canada. Defenseman Chris Schmidt and forwards Travis Mulock and John Tripp were all born in Canada.

Olympic Gear "It's nice to come back to North America, I like playing on the smaller surface, you don't have to skate so much," said Tripp, 32, a former Los Angeles King who now plays for the Hamburg Freezers. "I'm hoping my family cheers for me, but you never know."

Of course, not every team in this Olympic hockey extravaganza is playing today. Team USA joined Sweden, Finland and Russia in avoiding the Qualification Playoff round by sweeping Group A.

"You would think Brian Burke, general manager of the U.S. team, would be happy with where his team stood heading into tomorrow's quarter-final game against either Switzerland or Belarus, writes Matthew Sekeres in the Globe and Mail.

"Not so much.

"You guys are probably going to be shocked by this, but I'm not happy with the way that we've played to this point," Burke said. "If that's how we play, we're going to have a hard time getting to where we want to get and medalling.

"The fiery Irishman was at his grumpy best yesterday, saying that just 10 Americans are playing well, and that a 5-3 win over the host Canadians on Sunday was a sham because of the way the game went down. Burke said the Americans were outclassed at centre ice, lacked intensity early in the second period, and were victorious only because goaltender Ryan Miller stole the game.

"We have to play significantly better," he said. "We need all hands on deck. We're playing without about 10 guys carrying us."

The buzz around the Russian camp still centered on Alex Ovechkin and his game-changing hit on Czech Republic star Jaromir Jagr in Sunday's win, the Associated Press' Larry Lage notes.

"Flashbulbs popped and conversations stopped when Ovechkin visit Russia House on Monday. He talked up his homeland, which will host the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

"I'm proud to be Russian," Ovechkin said. "We have probably the best country in the world. Everything is the best: hockey players, cars, girls."

"Russia hockey president and general manager Vladislav Tretiak says Ovechkin's style is nothing like famed Russian forward Valeri Kharlamov, who shared the Olympic record for career points until Finland's Teemu Selanne broke it last week.

"There is no comparison with their styles. Their skill? Yes, you can compare," Tretiak said through an interpreter. "Ovechkin does not play like a Russian. He plays like an NHL player. He risks energy and wasting energy by trying to check everybody."
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