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OLYMPICS

U.S., Canada hockey teams try to build on

They hope to strengthen the foundation they set during their respective successful openers.

February 18, 2010|By Helene Elliott

Reporting from Vancouver — For Team USA and host Canada, the first game of the Olympic men's hockey tournament was about shaking their jitters. Each was a little disjointed Tuesday, with Canada blanked by Norway for 22 minutes and the U.S. scoring only once in the first 25 minutes.

Each gained momentum and wore down an inferior opponent. Canada defeated Norway, 8-0, and the U.S. sweated a bit before beating Switzerland, 3-1.

"I think we had a lot of nervous energy as a team. I know for my part, I did," U.S. goalie Ryan Miller said. "It's fun to be part of the Olympic Games and get our feet wet, and now it's on to the next challenge."

When they return to Canada Hockey Place on Thursday, the U.S. to face Norway at noon and Canada to play Switzerland at 4:30 p.m., they'll look to strengthen the foundation they set during their respective openers.

Hoping that a few energetic shifts by the No. 1 line of Chicago's Patrick Kane, New Jersey's Zach Parise and Colorado's Paul Stastny will produce goals instead of the few oohs and ahs they generated Tuesday, U.S. Coach Ron Wilson plans to keep that trio together.

Wilson's only planned lineup change against Norway will have the Kings' Jonathan Quick dress as Miller's backup instead of Boston's Tim Thomas.

"We'll try to keep our lines together right now to try and see if we can create some chemistry," Wilson said Wednesday.

"If I start after a win moving people around in the next game, no one knows what the other guys are doing, either. So you try to stay as consistent as possible with our lines and during the game try and keep everybody involved."

Kane, the highest-scoring American player in the NHL this season with 25 goals and 67 points in 61 games, said he and his linemates chatted about their habits and tendencies Wednesday and should have a stronger connection today.

Canada switched up its lines Tuesday and ended up with the potent combination of Rick Nash, Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla. Nash had two assists, Crosby had three and Iginla had a hat trick after a video review of a goal credited to Nash showed that Iginla had tipped it.

Coach Mike Babcock will keep that line together but will make one key change by starting Martin Brodeur in goal after choosing Roberto Luongo for the opener.

Brodeur figures to get the bulk of the work, and if he had started Tuesday and rested Thursday he might have lost his rhythm by the time Canada faces the U.S. on Sunday in their preliminary-round finale. This way he has a better chance to stay sharp, and to get accustomed to maximizing his puck-handling skills again.

Brodeur was punished more than any other goalie when the NHL adopted the trapezoid behind the net that limits goalies' roaming space. The trapezoid isn't used in international hockey.

"I'm sure I'll use it as much as I can to help the guys out, but it's a mobile defense, and by the time I get to the puck they're probably going to be there anyway," he said.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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