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Olympic hockey: Group A breakdown

02.16.10 at 11:05 am ET
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The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics hockey tournament starts at 3 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday at Canada Hockey Place with Team USA taking on Switzerland to begin the Group A preliminary round robin. Throughout the day, we will present short bios of the teams in each group, starting with Group A, where the United States and Canada continue a long international rivalry.

Note: After the preliminary round, each of the 12 teams will be ranked on the basis of points. The top four teams advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining teams playing to advance.

Schedule (All times ET)

Feb. 16 ‘€” USA vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 16 ‘€” Canada vs. Norway, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 ‘€” USA vs. Norway, 3 p.m.

Feb. 18 ‘€” Canada vs. Switzerland, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 ‘€” Norway vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 21 ‘€” Canada vs. USA, 7:40 p.m.

United States

Captain ‘€” Jamie Langenbrunner

Assistant captains ‘€” Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter, Brian Rafalski

Goaltenders ‘€” Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick

Players to Watch ‘€” Phil Kessel, Chris Drury, Patrick Kane

Bruins on the roster ‘€” Thomas

Breakdown ‘€” Team USA’s strength is between the pipes. The Sabres’ Miller is likely to get most of the starts for the Americans, but any one of the three goaltenders can get hot and carry the team into the medal round. Drury was a standout at Boston University, where he helped the Terriers to a national championship in 1995. This will be his third Olympic games. Kane and Kessel could give the team some offensive pop, but to stand up to the likes of Russia and Canada the Americans will have to be able to keep pucks out of the net. Team USA definitely has talent, but it may not be enough to propel it to its first gold medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the only other time Team USA took first aside from the 1960 Forgotten Miracle.

Canada

Captain ‘€” Scott Niedermayer

Assistants ‘€” Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Chris Pronger

Goaltenders – Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur

Players to Watch ‘€” Whom not to watch? With such a star-packed team there are plenty of names to keep an eye on, but look out for Blackhawks young forward Jonathan Toews.

Bruins on the roster ‘€” Patrice Bergeron

Breakdown ‘€” The pressure is on the Canadians to win this tournament going away. It is their sport, their country and their gold medal to lose. With Crosby, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley likely to head up the top line and stout defensemen including Pronger on the blue line, it is an NHL general manager’s dream. Add in Luongo and the timeless Brodeur, and Canada has plus players and depth at every position. Look for Bergeron to man center on the third line and play against opposing teams’ top lines as a defensive forward.

Switzerland

Captain ‘€” Mark Streit

Goaltenders ‘€” Jonas Hiller, Martin Gerber, Tobias Stephan

Players to Watch ‘€” Streit and Hiller are the NHL stalwarts, but some young talent at the minor league level includes Yannick Weber of the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs (Canadiens), Andres Ambuhl of the AHL Hartford Wolfpack (Rangers) and Luca Sbisa of the WHL Portland Winterhawks (Ducks).

Breakdown ‘€” Gerber and Hiller are the strength of Team Switzerland and Streit is a strong captain for the team, but overall the talent is spread too thin to compete with the North Americans. A quarterfinals run would be an outside possibility.

Norway

Captain ‘€” TBD

Goaltenders ‘€” Pal Grotnes, Andre Lysenstoen, Ruben Smith.

Who to Watch – Ole-Kristian Tollefson, Patrick Thoresen, Tommy Jakobsen.

Breakdown ‘€” Tollefson and Thoresen are the only two players that have any NHL experience and neither are currently in the league. Tollefson has had the most success as the 65th pick of the 2002 draft by the Blue Jackets. He is with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Red Wings system. Tollefson and Thorensen are two of only five Norwegian players to ever lace up in the league. Thorensen played with the Oilers and Flyers and now is with Salat Yulaev of the KHL. Jakobsen is the old bear of the team with 131 international appearances. Do not expect much from Norway. The last time it qualified for the Olympics was 1994, and its highest finish in the tournament was eighth in 1972.

Read More: Canada, Norway, Patrice Bergeron, Switzerland

Four in a row: Bruins tame Panthers in shootout

02.13.10 at 9:59 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins played a sleepy game on Saturday in Sunrise but were able to take two points from the Panthers with a 3-2 shootout win. Mark Recchi was the hero for the Bruins in the eighth round of the shootout. Tuukka Rask took the win for his fourth consecutive victory with 26 saves while Tomas Vokoun was the loser for the Panthers with 37 stops.

Mark Recchi tied the game at two in the second half of the third period when he deflected a Dennis Wideman shot passed Vokoun.

The Panthers took the early lead when Nick Tarnasky scored his first of the year at 10:12 in the first period after he was left alone in front of Rask on a rebound. Boston came back when David Krejci scored his 11th of the year at 15:54 when he threw the puck on Vokoun from the corner that beat the net-minder through the legs to tie the game at one.

The lead did not last as Stephen Weiss flew through the neutral zone and put an inside-out move on Zdeno Chara to burn the Bruins captain and knock down Rask’s door with with a wrist shot at 18:54 in the first period.

Three Stars

Mark Recchi — The veteran forward played in his 1550th game to move into ninth on the all-time list and tied the game with his ninth power play goal of the year (team high) in the third period. He had the game-deciding goal in the shootout.

Dennis Wideman — The Bruins defenseman had two assists on the night to give him 19 for the season

Stephen Weiss — The Panthers leading scorer had the best looking goal of the game when he burned through Chara in the first period.

Turning Point

The Bruins went on their first power play of the game at the 9:44 in the third period and made the Panthers pay. Recchi camped in front of Vokoun and was rewarded when he redirected a Wideman shot from the top of the right circle to tie the game at 11:44.

Key Play

The Bruins and Panthers went back and forth in the shootout that went to sudden death eight rounds. Recchi proved to be the hero again when he deposited the puck top-shelf over Vokoun’s shoulders for the game-deciding goal. Krejci and Marc Savard scored in the shootout for the Bruins to keep the Bruins alive. David Booth and Kamil Kreps tallied for the Panthers.

Read More: David Krejci, Florida Panthers, Mark Recchi, Tomas Vokoun

Bruins sleeping in Sunrise

02.13.10 at 8:40 pm ET
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The Bruins are sleep walking their way through southern Florida.

There was not much action through the second period. Boston played a sleepy and, at times, sloppy period where it could not get a lot of chances created and fought the Panthers good puck possession through the neutral and defensive zones.

Rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid perhaps got a little juices flowing for the Bruins at 15:06 when he took exception to a high and (slightly) late hit from Panthers forward Victor Oreskovich. McQuaid threw a flurry of punches at Oreskovich right in front of the Bruins bench as he makes his case to stay with the Bruins and deserves and NHL roster spot.

The third period will start the same way as the second as the Panthers lead 2-1.

Shots through second (total):

Bruins — 8 (18)

Panthers  – 11 (19)

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Florida Panthers,

Panthers lead B’s after first

02.13.10 at 7:50 pm ET
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The Bruins are in Sunrise, Florida and may have left their game at the beach as they trail for the first time on their four game road trip after the first period. Boston is skating well enough but the urgency of the previous three games does not seem to be present as of yet.

Nick Tarnasky beat Tuukka Rask on a rebound put-away rebound at 10:12 to give the Panthers the early lead. The Bruins have not trailed in regulation since losing to the Washington Capitals last Tuesday. It was Tarnasky’s first goal of the year for the Panthers in his 11th game.

The lead would not last long though as David Krejci tallied his 11th of the year when he threw a wrist shot on Tomas Vokoun on a rush from the baseline on the right wing at 15:54.

Florida took the lead again when the Panthers leading scorer, Stephen Weiss, flew through the neutral zone and put and inside-out move on Zdeno Chara to march straight in on Rask and bury the chance at a 18:54. It was a power play strike as Shawn Thornton was the the box for a holding call at 18:27.

End of first, Panthers up 2-1.

Shots:

Bruins — 10

Panthers — 8

Read More: David Krejci, Florida Panthers, Nick Tarnasky, Stephen Weiss

Bruins aim to tame faltering Panthers

02.12.10 at 9:08 pm ET
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Everybody wants to be on an island in south Florida in the winter.

Well, unless your name is Tomas Vokoun.

In a letter to their fans on Friday, Florida Panthers managing partners Cliff Viner and Stu Siegel had some direct words on what they think of the current direction of their hockey club:

Excerpt –

Clearly, we are not satisfied with some of the players on this team that do not possess the characteristics we need to be successful. We must be accountable for that. Our task moving forward is to acquire players with the attributes, skills and qualities we want in a Panthers player. We must admit the significant shortcomings we have as an organization, and we must move quickly and efficiently to overcome these shortcomings and reshape this franchise on a much more solid foundation.

Translation? We are blowing the doors off this roster and starting from scratch.

The Panthers are having the direct opposite reaction to a horrendous streak than the Bruins. Where as Peter Chiarelli has been patient and waited for Marc Savard and Milan Lucic to come back healthy and productive and has been rewarded with three straight wins this week, Panthers general manager Randy Sexton cannot seem to wait to break up his roster. Heading into Saturday’s game Florida only stands six points from a playoff birth but it probably is looking at the teams ahead of it (like the Bruins) and has made the determination that the roster, as currently situated, does not have the talent or chemistry to break out of the funk.

That is where Vokoun comes in. The Panthers goaltender is having a good season and played well recently, despite Florida’s five-game losing streak. Vokoun is 5-7-1 in his last 13 games with a 1.77 goals against and .947 save percentage but is hampered by the fact that the Panthers are perhaps the worst defensive team in the league giving up 34.1 shots a game does not help the stalwart backstop. On top of that Florida is on an 11-game streak where it has scored two goals or less. Sound like the Bruins recent woes? Yeah, just about.

Without Vokoun, the Panthers would not even be sniffing a playoff spot and he may be the only player on the Panthers’ roster that might not be on the move. He has another year left on his deal and a no-trade clause. Sexton has stability at the most fickle position in the game and, if he is thinking clearly, should not mess with a good thing and build from the backstop on out. Trading Dominic Moore to the Canadiens for a second round pick on Thursday was a good start and there will probably be more trades on the way.

On the Bruins side of the aisle, things are looking better. The team looks to incorporate the lessons it has learned in the positive week before the Olympic break and continue them in Sunrise on Saturday. Twice this week the Bruins have broken the two-goal barrier that had been holding them back and Tuukka Rask has made them stand up (despite barely hanging on after being spotted a five goal lead on Thursday). Rask is 3-0-2 in his last five straight starts with a .942 save percentage and will likely start against the Panthers.

Miroslav Satan will miss the game after suffering a laceration on his hand in a first period hit into the boards on Thursday. Satan flew back to Boston and had the hand looked at and the report is that there is no tendon damage but rather just a fresh cut that will keep him out on Saturday. Coach Claude Julien could not comment on whether or not the cut will keep him from playing with Team Slovakia in Vancouver but suspected that Satan would probably play. Lucic and Shawn Thornton did not practice on Friday because of reported food poisoning but are expected to go on Saturday.

Read More: Florida Panthers, Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan, Shawn Thornton

Bruins hold off Lighting for third straight

02.11.10 at 10:16 pm ET
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Summary — The Bruins scored four first period goals en route to a 5-4 victory over the streaking Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa Bay on Thursday. Michael Ryder had two goals and an assist in the first and Milan Lucic added to tip-in goals to pace the Bruins attack. Tuukka Rask won his third straight game for Boston with 30 saves and now has earned points in five straight. The Lightning came back on Boston with two second period goals and another in two in the third before the Bruins were able to put the game away.

Antero Niittymaki let in the four first period goals on 21 shots before being pulled for Mike Smith to start the second.

Ryder almost had a natural hat trick in the first. He got an assist on Lucic’s first goal with a shot from the point that the big forward deflected on its way passed Niitymaki. Ryder scored twice later in the period with the first coming courtesy of a give-and-go on the rush with Blake Wheeler and then another on the power play off a shot from Marc Savard to make it 4-0.

Lucic was credited for his second of the game in the second period when the Bruins made it 5-0. Lucic tipped a shot off a turn-and-blast from Zdeno Chara in the high slot that found its way through Smith’s pads.

The Lightning came back late in the second on the power play when Martin St. Louis picked up two goals in the final four minutes as the Bruins picked up a couple questionable penalties. Steve Downie scored the third and fourth goals for Tampa Bay in the third period.

Three Stars

Michael Ryder — The Bruins winger had his 15th career three-point game and has eight goals in nine career games against Niittymaki. His two goals give him 15 on the season.

Milan Lucic — The big bodied Bruin got credit for two goals on the night with deflections in front of the Lightning net. Lucic now has five goals on the year.

Martin St. Louis — Tampa Bay’s veteran forward had two second period goals and now has seven in the Lightnings’ last six games.

Turning Point

Boston’s third goal of the game was one of the best of the year for the Bruins. Ryder tipped a backhand tip pass to Wheeler who immediately gave it back to catch Niitymaki completely out of position. Ryder rammed the puck home and followed it with a trip/dive into the net to give the Bruins the 3-0 lead. Boston had taken 2-0 leads in its past four games but this was the first time in a long time that the Bruins were able to take a three-goal advantage in the first period.

Key Play

Lucic scored his second of the game on a tip in the second period to make it 5-0. The goal become important as the Lighting would score four straight through the end of the second period into the third to make it a one-goal game with 8:51 left before the Bruins were able to put it away.

Read More: Martin St. Louis, Michael Ryder, Milan Lucic, Steve Downie

Bruins up three after two

02.11.10 at 9:22 pm ET
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Most everything is going right for the Bruins.

Boston made it 5-0 at 4:53 in the second when Zdeno Chara whipped a turn-and-blast shot from the high slot that was tipped by Daniel Paille and Milan Lucic on its way passed Mike Smith. Lucic got the credit for the goal, his second of the game and fifth on the year. The two-goal game is the fourth of his career. Smith replaced Antero Niittymaki to start the period after the top line goaltender let in four goals on 17 shots in the first period.

Chara would get a little nasty with Steve Downie later in the period when Downie tried to get in the captain’s face. Downie had been an instigator in the first period when he got a roughing major for trying to pick a fight with Miroslav Satan (the penalty would lead to Boston’s fourth goal). When Downie tried the same thing with Satan’s country mate (both hail from Slovakia) Chara let him know that he will not tolerate people messing with his teammates. Satan did not return to the ice for the second period.

Things started to unravel a little bit late in the period. Martin St. Louis got the Lightning on the board at 16:10 when he beat Tuukka Rask to break up the shutout on the power play. In the last minute of  Bruins took a couple of penalties (Michael Ryder and David Krejci) along with one from the Lightning (Todd Fedoruk) to set up a 4-0n-3 that Tampa took advantage of with another goal from St. Louis at the 19:03 mark.

End of second period. 5-2 Bruins.

Shots through second (total):

Boston — 5 (26)

Tampa Bay — 9 (22)

Read More: Martin St. Louis, Mike Smith, Steve Downie, Tampa Bay Lightning
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