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Rangers captain Chris Drury, alternate captain Ryan Callahan
and head coach John Tortorella were all part of a Team USA squad that got off to a very strong start in Tuesday afternoon's opening game of the 2010 Olympic men's hockey tournament.
The Americans dominated Switzerland in a 3-1 victory to start round-robin play in Group A. Drury and Callahan, both significant contributors to the team's fourth line, and Tortorella, a U.S. assistant coach, can now look forward to being even heavier favorites in their next game against Norway on Thursday afternoon.
|Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan joins in a celebration of USA teammate David Backes' goal that put the Americans up 2-0 over Switzerland during the second period on Tuesday afternoon. |
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Two other players with connections to the Rangers weren't as happy with Tuesday's result. Swiss forward Andres Ambuhl, a Rangers prospect who plays for the AHL's Hartford Wolf Pack, and defenseman Philippe Furrer, a former Rangers draft pick whose rights are no longer held by the club, were on the losing side of the equation and will have another tough hill to climb against Canada on Thursday.
Team USA outshot Switzerland 24-15 on the afternoon, making it a rough day for goaltender Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks. Hiller and defensemen Mark Streit of the Islanders and Yannick Weber of the Montreal Canadiens are the only three NHL players on the Swiss roster, making Switzerland one of the less likely candidates to win an Olympic men's hockey medal.
Because Olympic teams are allowed to dress 20 skaters and two goalies instead of the 18 and two goalies allowed under NHL rules, U.S. head coach Ron Wilson had more flexibility with the lines, particularly a fourth line that included both Drury and Callahan at times.
One configuration of the fourth line saw Callahan with Anaheim's Bobby Ryan and St. Louis' David Backes, another saw Callahan and Drury with Backes, and a third saw Drury centering Ryan on his left and Backes on his right.
Both Callahan and Drury were on the ice for Team USA goals. Drury picked up his plus-1 stat when Bobby Ryan notched the first goal of the game at 18:59 of the opening period, and Callahan was skating on the line with Ryan and Backes when Backes made it 2-0 early in the second period.
Callahan and Drury both brought a lot of energy to the American lineup and were among the first U.S. players to deliver hits in the offensive zone. Callahan finished with one shot in 10:02 of total ice time, while Drury had two shots in 9:55.
Their expertise as penalty killers wasn't needed until the 4:49 mark of the third period when Rangers prospect Ambuhl drew a hooking penalty against Joe Pavelski. Moments earlier, Pavelski and Drury had collided in the offensive zone, and Drury slid into Hiller, knocking the net off its moorings without drawing any penaly in the process.
Callahan and Drury came out on the second penalty-killing unit to kill off the final minute of Pavelski's penalty, and they looked very familiar and comfortable working together to block shots and prevent Switzerland from getting any quality scoring chances. They were soon tested again when Ryan Suter was penalized at 8:32 of the third. This time, they killed the penalty's opening minute and nearly scored a shorthanded goal when Callahan broke down the left side and dropped a pass to Drury, whose wrister was stopped by Hiller.
Moments after the Callahan-Drury breakout was turned aside, the Swiss got their first goal from Roman Wick, whose centering pass for Hnat Domenichelli caught a piece of Ryan Miller and skipped over the U.S. goalie into the net at 9:45 of the third. Domenichelli and Streit picked up assists on the goal. Callahan and Drury had already come off the ice when the goal was scored.
The U.S. never trailed in the game after the Ryan-Backes-Drury trio made it 1-0 late in the first.
Backes started the play down low, sending a loose puck behind the net back out toward the left-wing boards. Drury took his man out of the play, and an errant Swiss pass came out to Ryan, who walked in from the high slot to beat Hiller into the top left corner of the net.
Callahan also saw time on the line with Drury and Ryan earlier in the first period, when Drury fed Callahan a centering pass from the right corner. Callahan was unable to convert his opportunity from just outside the crease to Hiller's right and the game remained scoreless at that point.
Team USA was the much stronger squad in the opening 20 minutes, outshooting the Swiss 8-5 and enjoying the bulk of the high-quality scoring chances. The Americans' top line of Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Paul Stastny combined for five of the shots with Kane launching three of them. Neither Callahan nor Drury were credited with shots on Hiller in the first 20 minutes.
The U.S. fourth line also contributed the second goal when Backes picked up a pass from Bobby Ryan in the neutral zone, swarmed down the left wing and then cut into the middle to beat Hiller at 5:52 of the second period. Callahan was on the ice for the Backes' goal.
The third U.S. goal was scored with 28 seconds left in a power play as the line of Pavelski, Phil Kessel and Ryan Malone wore down Switzerland until Malone was able to jam a loose puck into the goal as Pavelski fought off a defender right in front of Hiller at 8:25. Defenseman Ryan Suter picked up an assist on the goal
In the second period, Drury mostly centered Ryan and Backes, but he also had shifts on a line with Callahan, who fired his first Olympic shot on goal at the 14:59 mark.
Callahan nearly picked up his first Olympic point late in the third period, when his perfect pass from just outside the crease to an oncoming Backes was lifted just over a sprawling Hiller. Drury also got a scoring opportunity with under three minutes left in the third, but his attempt to lift the puck from in close ended up in the netting above the glass.
Despite being on the wrong side of the score, Ambuhl, a 26-year-old center who signed with the Rangers as an undrafted free agent last May. had a strong game for the Swiss. He had an even plus-minus rating in 15:13 of ice time while also drawing a penalty. Ambuhl has played in 50 games with the Wolf Pack this season.
In the first of two later games on Tuesday, Canada routed Norway 8-0. Team USA will be facing the Canadians in the final Group A round-robing ame on Sunday night. Tuesday's other game featured another rout, as Russia beat Latvia 8-2.
Three other Rangers players competing at Vancouver will see their first Olympic action on Wednesday. Olli Jokinen and Team Finland face Belarus at 3 p.m., followed by Henrik Lundqvist
and Sweden vs. Germany at 7:30 p.m., and Marian Gaborik
's Slovak team will face the Czech Republic in the late game.
Gaborik, who is still recovering from a laceration to his knee suffered during the Rangers' Feb. 9 practice, might be held out of Wednesday's game
, according to Slovak team doctor.