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Parise: Team USA's top line must be better

by Dan Rosen
VANCOUVER -- Zach Parise had a plan for himself Wednesday morning. After doing some interviews for and NHL Live, Parise was heading back to the Olympic Village to do some homework.

"I'm going to watch some video of our shifts to learn some of what Kaner (Patrick Kane) does, what he likes and where (Paul) Stastny goes on the ice so we can make sure we're better next game," Parise told Wednesday morning.

Parise, Stastny and Kane will again be Team USA's top line against Norway on Thursday, but they were not much of a factor in the 3-1 win over Switzerland in the Americans' pool play opener Tuesday.

Parise said he wasn't even sure coach Ron Wilson would keep them together for Thursday's game at Canada Hockey Place, but they practiced as a line Wednesday and Wilson said the lines would stay as is for at least one more game.

"I'll be honest, we weren't good enough," Parise said. "We were supposed to be the so-called go-to line and I don't think we were good at all. If we are together, we have to be a lot better."

Wilson always has the option of putting Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner together between one of the centers, likely Stastny, Ryan Kesler or Joe Pavelski. Parise and Langenbrunner play together a lot with the New Jersey Devils, so it wouldn't be a surprising move if Wilson made it at some point in the tournament.

However, for now he wants to see if his best trio can develop the chemistry they will need in order to play a strong game against Canada on Sunday.

"Give the Swiss some credit, too, because you don't just go out and do what you want when you want," Wilson said. "We'll try to keep our lines together right now to see if we can create some chemistry. If I start after a win moving people around in the next game then nobody knows what the other guys are doing."

Parise, Stastny and Kane did show flashes of brilliance.

Their first shift together was an exercise in skill. Along with defenseman Erik Johnson and Ryan Whitney, they hemmed the Swiss into their zone for more than a minute as they zipped the puck around the zone as if it was a hot potato.

They didn't score, but it was enough for Parise to say on the bench, "Boys, we're going to have a good game today."

"Looking back on it, that was maybe one of the worst things that could have happened to us having that first shift because then you think it's going to come easy after that," Kane told "I think now we know what to expect. We know a little bit more about each other and I think the biggest thing for us is getting the puck from the defenseman and making ourselves more presentable and we should be fine when we get the puck in our own end."

Although he'd be in his comfort zone playing with Langenbrunner, Parise appreciates the chance to make it work with Kane and Stastny.

"I think it is a feeling out process for us," he said. "We all play with different type of players back home, so you kind of have to learn."

Stastny believes they can make it happen.

"Who wouldn't want to play with these two guys, right?" he told "I thought we played well and we're only going to get better by feeling each other out. Getting that first game in gets some of the butterflies away, but I think it's only going to get easier from here as we get to know each other."

All three agreed with GM Brian Burke's assessment that they were guilty of overpassing the puck. But they also said that happens when you have three skilled players who aren't familiar with one another.

"You don't take shots that I guess you would during the NHL season," Parise said. "You try to get a little fancy, and I think sometimes we were guilty of that. Again, I just think it's more comfort of knowing where the other guy is, just so you can do a blind cycle behind the net because you know the other guy is going to be there. Things like that we have to get more comfortable with."

Part of the issues they may have had Tuesday should be obvious to anyone who regularly watches Parise, Kane and Stastny with their respective NHL clubs.

Team USA GearKane likes to freelance more and hold onto the puck, whereas Parise and Stastny play more of a north-south game. Stastny also likes to work behind the net, while Parise is accustomed to going in front.

"I'm used to playing with Jamie (Langenbrunner) and Travis (Zajac), and we'll cycle and I'll go to the net," Parise said. "That's just how we play, so we kind of have to learn ways to be better here so we can have a little better game tomorrow."

That's why Parise had that film session planned for himself, and why Wednesday's practice was so important.

Norway, 8-0 losers to Canada on Tuesday, shouldn't pose much of a threat to the Americans' top line, but Wilson wants to see that chemistry develop so he knows he can go back to them when the chips are on the table against Canada in the final game of pool play.

"With Paul and Zach, they are such skilled players, and obviously Zach works so hard that he's going to be able to help me to get pucks back," Kane said. "I think it's going to be a good mix once we get used to each other. We were already better in practice."

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