Time to stop talking and get on the ice
In at least 10 locker rooms across the NHL since New Year's Day, Olympic athletes went back and forth, incessantly jabbing their teammates and talking a bit of trash, or at least as much trash as hockey players talk off the ice.
"There has been (a lot of talking) during the season and leading up to it, for sure," Canada defenseman Brent Seabrook said.
It ends Sunday, when the most anticipated game in the tournament's first week finally takes place: Team USA vs. Team Canada. Of the combined 46 players on the two rosters, only 14 of them don't have at least one teammate on the other side.
San Jose and Anaheim each have five players in the game. Chicago has four and so will Los Angeles if Jonathan Quick dresses as Ryan Miller's backup, though it's probably going to be Tim Thomas.
New Jersey will have three players in the game, while Pittsburgh, Carolina, Vancouver, Nashville and Boston (provided it is Thomas who dresses) each will have two.
"It's going to be fun and it's going to be exciting," Seabrook said. "I know I'm looking forward to it. I don't know if you can really describe it, it's just a feeling you have. It's going to be fun."
It also should be tight and intense thanks to dueling North American styles and Vezina Trophy candidate goalies on each end.
Canada will turn to assistant coach Lindy Ruff for a scouting report on Miller, his superstar in Buffalo. The U.S. team will look to Jamie Langenbrunner, Zach Parise and probably Brian Rafalski, too, for any tips they may have on solving Martin Brodeur.
Parise and Langenbrunner play with Canada's goalie in New Jersey, while Rafalski spent seven seasons with him in a Devils' uniform before going to Detroit in 2007.
"He's a good goaltender and he's been on top of his game for most of the year," Ruff said of Miller. "I have seen both games and he's played well for them.
"I'm looking at this being another really tight game where you're going to have to execute and make plays. I think we'll be seeing a fast-paced game where the U.S. team is really going to come after us. I think they have a couple of lines that have real good skill and a couple of lines that have real good size."
With the overall advantage in size and skill, Miller is likely the one player that stands between Canada and a first-place finish in Pool A. And, they are well aware of how a hot goalie can derail their offensive plans.
Jonas Hiller was spectacular in keeping Switzerland in Thursday's game, making 44 saves, including all 19 in the third period and overtime.
"We have to get traffic in front of him, keep pounding pucks and try and let him not see the puck," Seabrook said. "I think they've got excellent forwards and they can all shoot and make plays. They can load it up front at the point, too. Rafalski had 2 goals (against Norway) and with a hot goaltender in there it's anyone's game.
"We have to play Canadian hockey and go at them."
The U.S. team plans on doing the same thing, and the players yapping their gums in the end will be on their way to the quarterfinals.
"It's going to be huge," Seabrook said. "We play against a lot of these guys during the season and with them, so we're all looking forward to this one."
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