NHL players adjust to Olympic differences

February, 25, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Americans play at noon local time Friday, which will mark the fourth time they will play the lunchtime special at these Olympics.

Obviously, it requires that players prepare differently than for normal NHL games in the evening or even midafternoon tilts.

"You wake up, you eat breakfast and play. It doesn't give you a lot of time to think about the game, which can be good. You don't sit around all day. You just get up and play. I don't mind it at all. I thought I wouldn't like it at all, but I do," American forward Zach Parise said.

One of the other differences has been dressing in rooms that have no clock ticking down to the start of the game. In NHL dressing rooms, there are clocks that allow players -- especially those who hold to a firm pattern or ritual of pregame readiness -- to know exactly how much time they have before having to take the ice.

Those clocks do not exist here, or at least the clocks in the room have been difficult to follow.

Chris Drury joked that there some players who follow the ritual so closely that he doesn't think they could survive this tournament.

"You don't really have that here, so everyone's trying to figure out when exactly it is, when they need to be doing something. As the tournament goes on, you eventually figure it out," Parise said.

"I usually do a little hot and a cold tub in the morning on the day of a game. It's different playing at 7. Playing at noon, I don't want to be taking a cold tub at 10 in the morning. That's one thing that I've just kind of had to throw out, and shockingly I can still play."

Line juggling

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock has kept reporters busy with his line juggling in this tournament.

"I was just giving you guys something to write about," he joked Thursday. "You need something to complain about. We said right from the get-go we're a work in progress. We're trying to get better each and every game. It took us awhile to get to where we got last night. I told the coaches, I looked at my book and on Nov. 17, those were my lines. We finally got back to that. It's just one of those things we didn't think was the right combination to start Game 1."

So, Mike, what else is in that Olympic notebook of yours?

"Lots of stuff," he said. "All my notes for the whole year are in there. I'm going to sell it to you when I'm all done."

The defensive pairings are quite different from what he had in mind a few months ago.

"To tell you the truth, the only group that's stayed together is [Scott] Niedermayer and [Shea] Weber," Babcock said. "The rest has all changed. That's why you come to the tournament. You have this thing on paper, like I do every year with the Red Wings in the summer, and you get to camp and you throw it out about three days in because none of it worked. Some players are better than you expected, some aren't moving as quick as you expected. So they decide who plays in what situations."

Darling Ducks

Babcock was happy to see Anaheim stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry finally have a big night, the pair combining for three goals against Russia.

"I thought [Perry] and Getzy had to be a lot better, and I thought they were last night," the Canadian coach said. "They were real good for us and really effective. I just said to both of them, 'We've had some wars with Anaheim over the last three years, and every night we played them, those guys came to play and they were big-time warriors and I expect the same here.'"

Crazy Canada

Team Canada forward Mike Richards had quite the reaction from family and friends in the wake of the big win over Russia.

"It was a lot of text messages, calls," the Philadelphia Flyers captain said. "You could feel the atmosphere in the building and how much everybody wanted it, not only us but the fans and everyone around wanted us to beat them. It's nice to get the win, but it's over and now we have to move on to Slovakia."

Richards said his team needs to be wary of Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens.

"He's quick. He's a standard kind of butterfly goaltender, but he's got quick feet and when you think he has the open net, he kind of kicks it over, so you've got to be aware of that and bear down on your chances."

Nice job

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber helped shut down Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday night, and he said he relished the opportunity.

"I don't think I was nervous," Weber said Thursday. "He's one of the best players in the world. As a kid, you dream about playing in big games against the top players in the world. It was a challenge I was looking forward to, and as a team, I think we did a pretty good job."


Let's face it, a USA-Canada rematch is on a lot of people's minds.

"It would be huge," Canadian defenseman Drew Doughty said Thursday. "The game we played in the round-robin was a big game, 20 million viewers or something like that. But we can't look past this game tomorrow. I think we have a team that's definitely capable of winning the tournament, but all four teams are capable of winning. They wouldn't be at this point if they weren't really good."

Scott Burnside

ESPN Senior Writer

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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