Twenty-four hours after participating in their only practice session before the 2010 Winter Olympic hockey tournament begins Tuesday with a tripleheader, the Penguins’ five-man Olympic contingent found out who they will be playing with at the outset of the competition.
American defender Brooks Orpik
, whose team leads off the day with a 3 p.m. showdown with Switzerland, will be paired in a shutdown role with Los Angeles Kings blueliner Jack Johnson.
Both players are cut from a similar cloth. Each is a strong, physical specimen who enjoys throwing his body around, yet still possesses the foot speed to match up with the world’s elite skaters.
Johnson told NHL.com’s Shawn P. Roarke he is excited to take shifts with Orpik.
"I think he and I will make a great pair," Johnson said. "I think he is a phenomenal player – hard to play against. I think as a pair, we make a difficult pair to play against."
Crosby, who enters the tournament as one of the hottest players with a league-leading 42 goals (tied), will be flanked by the Columbus Blue Jackets Rick Nash and Boston Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron when the puck drops at 7:30 p.m. against Norway.
Nash, a former Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goal scorer in 2004, is considered one of the game’s preeminent power forwards. He and Crosby skated together during Canada’s Olympic camp last August.
Crosby and Bergeron are no strangers to playing together. As linemates, they helped Canada to a gold medal during the 2005 World Junior Championships. The next season, in the World Championships, the duo ranked Nos. 1-2 on the tournament scoring chart.
"I think it's possible (to find that chemistry again)," Crosby told NHL.com after Canada's practice Monday. "Hopefully our games haven't changed that much over the last little while and we're able to adjust pretty quickly."
For Team Russia, which drew the late game against Latvia at 11:55 p.m., Evgeni Malkin
will not skate on a line with Washington’s Alex Ovechkin as everyone had expected. Instead, Malkin will have the New Jersey Devils Ilya Kovalchuk and the Atlanta Thrashers Maxim Afinogenov as his bookends. Kovalchuk and Afinogenov spent much of the first three-quarters of the season playing together in Atlanta before Kovalchuk was traded to New Jersey two weeks ago.
On the defensive side, Sergei Gonchar will be paired with the Columbus Blue Jackets Fedor Tyutin. The two are expected to log a majority of their minutes playing behind the Malkin line, as Russia has always tended to use five-man units in international competition.