Wilson preparing players for Olympic scene

February, 11, 2010

On the eve of the Winter Olympics, Team USA's coach is getting the trash talk from some of his Canadian neighbors.

Ron Wilson, who doubles as Toronto Maple Leafs coach, said Wednesday the banter has picked up of late in these parts.

"People say, 'Good luck, you'll enjoy your silver medal,"' Wilson told ESPN.com, while laughing. "And I say, `Yeah, it's going to be awful if the Russians beat us and they get the gold.' Obviously people here are passionately rooting for Canada. With all the stuff you see on TV every day, it's getting pretty exciting. It's going to be fun."

The Olympics are really here (I get into Vancouver on Sunday). Team USA opens its men's hockey tournament Tuesday against Jonas Hiller and Switzerland at noon PT/3 p.m. ET.

Now, it's cramming time. Wilson has sent weekly e-mails to his Team USA players all season long and sent the last one Tuesday night.

"It was just about telling them what to expect over the first few days once we get in," said Wilson. "You have to come in and immediately shift your mind to the Olympics and trust that organizers are going to have their families and everything else taking care of. ... We've really got to manage our time well in the first couple of days. It's critical."

As it is, the U.S. team will get in only one on-ice session before its first game, a practice scheduled Monday evening at 6 p.m. local/9 p.m. ET.

A key right off the hop will be focusing on the power play. Wilson said the forwards in line for power-play time included Paul Stastny, Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski, Dustin Brown and Bobby Ryan.

"Those are primarily the guys for the power play," said Wilson. "It's going to be hard because there's not a lot of chemistry coming in. For example, Team Canada has a huge advantage with the fact four guys from their power-play unit, one of the best power plays in the league from San Jose, are coming in [Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau]. They're going to have instant chemistry and use the San Jose power play.

"We're just going to have to work hard in practice the first day and hopefully get the job done against Switzerland as we try to figure out what the best power play for us is going to be."

At least on the penalty kill, Wilson said there's some built-in chemistry.

"Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan, they do a great job with the Rangers, so there's some chemistry there," said Wilson.

Nabby's take
I had a chance to chat with Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov on Tuesday. The San Jose Sharks star understands why everybody is talking about a Canada-Russia gold-medal game, but said it won't be that simple.

"Everybody is hoping for the dream final, but we'll have to put a lot of work into it to make it happen," said Nabokov. "It's not going to be easy, because I can guarantee you a couple of countries will have something to say about it -- Sweden, the Finns, the Czechs and even the Americans I think will be a dangerous team. It's such a quick tournament; one mistake, one injury, one game can decide what's going to happen."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?