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Preds Olympic Blog

by Staff Writer / Nashville Predators
Get the inside scoop on the Preds participating in the 2010 Winter Olympic Tournament in Vancouver.

Daily Entries: Feb. 18 | Feb. 19 | Feb. 20 | Feb. 21 | Feb. 22 | Feb. 25

Feb. 27
Tremendous Gold Medal game this afternoon. Congrats to Shea Weber and Team Canada on the Gold Medal; thrilling 3-2 OT win. And congrats to Shea for earning a spot on the All-Tournament team!

But don't overlook the amazing performance by Ryan Suter ... a game-high 31:31 of ice time, including 11:38 in the third period alone! Sutes was all over the ice, skating end-to-end to join the offensive rush as Team USA was pressing for the tying goal, while also providing sound defensive coverage. Suter helped to trigger the overtime forcing goal with a key play along the half-boards and moving the puck behind the Canadian net just seconds before Zach Parise tied the score at 2-2.

While Weber was earning high praise for his excellence with Team Canada -- Shea finished with six points, second-highest among tournament defensemen -- Suter was becoming a star for Team USA. Suter and defensive partner Brian Rafalski were on the ice for all of the key situations for the US and Suter responded by leading the tournament with a +9 plus/minus rating.

Weber, an NHL All-Star last season, entered the tournament as a legitimate star around the league; Suter, with his performance during the Olympics, joined him among the league's elite.

Feb. 25
Talked with David Poile this morning. He's been stationed up in Vermont as Assistant GM of Team USA. He shared his thoughts on the action so far at the tournament and updated progress on the Preds playing in the Olympics.

Q. How has the Olympic Experience been? Is it more special working as member of Team USA versus going to watch?
A. The Olympics has met every expectation I’ve had. The last 18 months putting this team together has been great. And now to see that work play out on the ice has been a great experience. Working with the other NHL general managers (that are on the USA Hockey committee for the Olympics) has been a unique opportunity to hear their views on putting a team together and hearing their thoughts on different players. And the time here in Vancouver (for the games) has been a great experience.

Q. How have the Preds players faired during the tournament?
A. Starting with our North American guys, Suter and Weber have been really good. They’re the players that have been on the ice at the start of the game and in the final minute of games. Suter and Weber are leading their teams in ice time. That’s not a surprise to those of us who see them every game, but it’s a big chance for them on world stage. We think this tournament is just another step in their evolutions as players. Suter has been really important to what we’re doing with Team USA and you hear Canada saying a lot of the same things about Weber.

Marcel Goc centered the No. 1 line for Germany and led them in scoring. This has clearly been Goc’s best NHL season and he carried that play into the Olympics. It’s not his first Olympics – like Suter and Weber – but the Olympics is big stage and he really played well for the Germans. We think he’s really developed his game this season, and think he’ll continue the momentum back into the playoff stretch for us.

Alexander Sulzer also played for Germany. He saw a lot of minutes for Germany (third most among Team Germany defensemen) in the tournament. He was going up against some great players the last week. We think that experience will help him a lot down the stretch this season. He’s been up and down between us and Milwaukee this season, and the Olympics were a chance for him to play consistently against great players.

Hornqvist played on a line with Peter Forsberg and Henrik Zetterberg – two probably Hall of Famers. When you look back to the start of (Predators) training camp, I don’t think too many people would have thought he would end up playing in the Olympics on that high of a line. He’s come a long way this season; he’s really been big for us. He scored a key goal for Sweden last night. Unfortunately they weren’t able to win, so his tournament is done, but what a learning experience to play with those two guys. Patric is a young player having a fabulous season for us.

Martin Erat was very steady during the tournament, as he’s been for us all season long. He played power-play, penalty kill, key even strength situations. Sometimes he gets overlooked, but he’s just a steady player – and as we saw back in December, when he gets hot, he can be really good.

Q. Did you get a chance to talk to Alexander Radulov during the tournament?
A. Radulov and I have spoke a couple of times. He feels like he’s become a more complete player the past two seasons and I can definitely see that in his game. Sometimes when he was here we looked at him more as just an offensive spark, but he’s more of an all-around player now; he was killing penalties for the Russians during the tournament. He feels like that’s part of his game now. We didn’t have any talks about his future, though. It’s really up to him to make the next move when he wants to come back to NHL. He needs to reach out and let us know when he’s ready.

Q. When Patric Hornqvist went down hurt on Sunday, is that a GM’s worst nightmare? To see one of his players get hurt in the Olympics?
A. That’s something we’ve all talked about; it’s something you have to weigh when looking at future Olympic participation. It’s a great honor for the players to participate, but there’s no insurance against players getting injured. You just hope injuries don’t happen; hope there’s nothing serious because if a guy does get hurt (long-term) you’re too far into the season to really be able to do much to replace that. In our case, Patric is OK. He practiced back on Tuesday with Sweden and played the full game last night – scored a goal, too.

Q. Has the Olympic Tournament been a showcase for the sport?
A. Definitely. The hockey has been great and the TV ratings in Canada and the US have been the highest ever; higher than Stanley Cup Finals. The level of play has been great; the games have been exciting. And it helps that Team USA has been winning. With more people watching and more people exposed to the game, like for us in Nashville, it’s a chance to get younger fans interested in watching hockey and interested in playing the game. When we come back to the NHL season, you hope those fans continue their new interest with hockey and come out to a couple of our games. And we’re in such an exciting playoff race; it’s a great time to start watching the sport.

Q. During the Olympics you also were able to re-sign Pekka Rinne to a new contract. How important was that to the Preds?
A. All of us feel Pekka clearly has the potential to be a big-time No. 1 goaltender. He looks like the total package; he has tremendous size, good form, is really competitive. Plus he’s like a sponge, he wants to learn. We’re biased, but we think a lot of him as a goalie, but there are a lot of people outside the organization who think he’s on the verge of being a star No. 1 goalie.

Feb. 22

Talked with Alex Sulzer this evening; he and Marcel Goc are getting ready for their big game against Shea Weber and Team Canada tomorrow (6:30 pm CT start).

Q. What was it like arriving in Vancouver and what has the experience been like so far?
A. We had a good trip into Vancouver and I was really happy to finally get to the Olympic Village and see all the guys. I moved in with Christian Ehrhoff (Vancouver Canucks), he’s my roommate. We are all having a really good time. It’s really fun being in the Olympic Village and seeing all the other athletes.

Q. Has any of your family been able to make it to Vancouver?
A. My wife was here for a week. She left this morning and she had a great time too. It was great that she got to experience all this with me. The city here is just crazy. It is nuts. Everywhere you go it’s just packed and there are so many people. It’s actually too much sometimes.

Q. Have you had a chance to take in any of the other events?
A. No. Everything I wanted to see we had a game or practice on the same day or same time so I haven’t been able to catch anything. The only thing I could have gone to was the ice dancing but I’m not really interested in that.

Q. Have you seen any of your Nashville teammates besides Marcel Goc?
A. I’ve seen Hornqvist a couple times, I saw Sutes (Suter) for a few minutes after Sunday night’s game and I’ve seen Marty (Erat). The only person I haven’t seen is Webey (Weber) but I’ll definitely see him tomorrow on the ice.

Q. Germany will face the host country on Tuesday. What will that be like?
It’s going to be the best opportunity for us (Germans) to play on a big stage. We need to just try to play good hockey and be hard to beat. I don’t know if we have a chance or not. If we play good and everything is a 1000 percent for us and maybe Canada struggles than maybe we can squeeze out a win. It doesn’t matter what the final score is going to be. It is going to be just an awesome experience.

Feb. 21

What a huge win for Team USA today! All three games today finished with favorable results for the American squad, but by far the biggest was the US 5-3 win over Canada. It was a great, physical, fast paced game. Ryan Suter was a key to the US victory with two assists; Suter and his d-man partner Brian Rafalski have been tremendous for Team USA. Shea Weber continued his strong play in the tournament with an assist -- his third in three games.

By winning today the US not only won Pool A -- which gave the Americans a bye into the Quarterfinals, but with Russia's win over Czech Republic and Sweden's win over Finland, the USA claimed the No. 1 seed in the elimination part of the tournament. The benefit of the No. 1 seed is a Quarterfinals date on Wednesday versus the winner of Tuesday's Switzerland/Belarus game.

In the first game of the day Alexander Radulov and Russia topped Martin Erat and Czech Repbulic, 4-2. Radulov picked up a key assist in the win to help the Russian squad win Pool B and earn the No. 3 seed in the elimination part of the tournament. Erat was held without a point in the game.

In the late game, Patric Hornqvist and Team Sweden shutout Team Finland, 3-0 to ein Pool C and claim the No. 2 seed for the elimination games. Hornqvist was injured late in the second period of the game when he was hit with a high elbow from Joni Pitkanen. Both the Swedes and Finns (No. 4 seed) earned byes into the Quarterfinals. Sweden will likely face Slovakia, while Finland will likely match-up against Czech Republic.

The three marquee match-ups today set the final seedings for the elimination tournament, but the surprise shootout games on Thursday night for both Russia and Canada played a major role in the seedings. Russia's shootout loss to Slovakia caused the Russians to finish with seven points (versus nine points for the US and Sweden) and prevented Russia from competing for the No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Canada won its shootout on Thursday, but by going to overtime only claimed two points in the win, relegating the Canadians to the No. 6 seed instead of the No. 4 seed (and bye into the Quarterfinals).

Because of those two shootouts, a game many pre-tournament projected as a Gold Medal match-up appears likely to take place in the Quarterfinals. And one of the two hockey super-powers (Russia and Canada entered the tournament No. 1 and No. 2 in the world rankings) will face a dissapointing elimination without the chance to play for a medal.

Feb. 20

Talked with Ryan Suter today; he and Team USA just finished their practice session getting ready for the big battle vs. Team Canada (with Shea Weber).

Q. When did it hit you that you were really playing in the Olympics?
A. I don't think it really has hit me yet or sunk in. It might hit me more when I get back and have chance to reflect on the whole experience.

Q. What was it like to step out on the ice for that first game against Switzerland?
A. It was neat. Definitely the most nervous I've been before a game in some time, but you want to be nervous because you sometimes focus more. But it was awesome stepping on the ice. The crowd was great and there were a lot of US fans.

Q. What has surprised you the most about the Olympic experience?
A. Nothing really surprising but just to be here and realize how big a stage the Olympics are, to walk around and see all the people, being in the village and knowing that we (hockey) are just a small part of the program. I came in thinking it would be amazing and it has lived up to it!

Q. Have you had a chance to meet any of the other Olympians (non-hockey)?
I've met a lot of the other athletes just being in the village. Met JR Celski, the short track speed skater who won a bronze earlier in the Olympics. I've also met a couple of the snowboarders. It's been great to meet so many of the other athletes...and it's been neat having my dad here. He loves watching hockey and he's loving every bit of it.

Feb. 19

Just got off the phone with Shea Weber. He was busy with Team Canada responsibilities, but was still able to get his thoughts on the tournament so far.

Q. What was it like when you arrived in Vancouver?
A. Obviously it was pretty cool. There was so much buildup and I really didn’t know what to expect but then you get here and the city is just going crazy, everyone is really excited, it’s pretty nice and it’s a great set up.

Q. What has it been like playing with all the great players that make up Team Canada’s roster?
A. It’s been pretty great playing with Team Canada. Obviously every player on the team was chosen for a reason. They are some of the best players in the league and in the world. Its different but it’s been a lot of fun so far. A lot of these guys are usually enemies I play quite often so it’s a lot different being on the same side and getting the chance to play with them instead of against them.

Q. What have the crowds been like for your games?
A. It’s been unbelievable. The moment we step onto the ice for warm-ups its packed. It’s all red and white and Canadian jerseys and flags and people are just going nuts, just for warm-ups.

Q. Have you been able to take in any other events yet?
A. I haven’t even been out of the Olympic village yet. Today I’m going to venture out and see some other stuff. I’m going to try to go to another event but I’m not sure if I can get tickets to anything. I’d like to see anything. We’ve been watching a ton of the coverage on TV so to see anything live would be cool.

Q. I’m assuming you have family there to cheer you on?
A. My mom and dad, grandma and grandpa and my brother are all here. I haven’t been able to see too much of them. There is some time after each game to go see them and hang out with them for an hour or two but that’s about it.

Q. Have you seen any of your Nashville teammates since you’ve been there?
A. I ran into Ryan Suter the first day I was here but I don’t know what he’s been up to. We didn’t talk too long.

Feb. 18
Two days of hockey action down and each team has played once. So far no real upsets; the games have pretty much gone according to IIHF ranking. For the Preds, Suter and Weber both notched assists in Game 1 wins -- USA beat Switzerland 3-1 and Canada shutout Norway 8-0. Preds prospect Alexander Radulov scored a goal in Russia's 8-2 win over Latvia.

Patric Hornqvist skated on a line with Peter Forsberg and Henrik Zetterberg in Sweden's 2-0 shutout over Marcel Goc, Alex Sulzer and Team Germany. Goc was one of the most effective forwards for the Germans, taking most of their key faceoffs and providing solid two-way play.

Martin Erat and the Czech Republic also won its opener 3-1 over rival Slovakia.

With the unorthodox set-up to the tournament, margin of victory will probably play a big role. The 12 teams are split in three groups for the first round, but all 12 will advance to the elimination round, with the top four teams (the winners of the three groups plus the top second place team) earning a bye to the Quarterfinals, while the bottom eight teams will have a play-in game the day before the Quarterfinals (No. 5 vs. No. 12, No. 6 vs. No. 11, No. 7 vs. No. 10, and No. 8 vs. No. 9). Seeding for the elimination round will be based on points (3 points for a regulation win, 2 for an overtime/shootout win, 1 for an overtime/shootout loss). After points earned, the next tie breaker will be goal differential. With three groups and no crossover games there are likely to be several teams tied with three, six, or nine points (unless there are overtime games) which means goal differential could be the difference between the No. 1 seed or the No. 3 seed ... or the No. 4 seed (and a bye into the Quarterfinals) and the No. 5 or No. 6 seed and play-in game.

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