B's pick sides for gold-medal game

WILMINGTON, Mass. -- One Bruins player said Saturday that it was getting a little hot on the ice after the club’s third straight day of practice at Ristuccia Arena after the Olympics break.

The increase in temperature is to be expected when you have a mix of U.S.-born and Canadian hockey players in such tight quarters, and Sunday those two nations will decide which one leaves Vancouver with a gold medal from the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Bets are flying fast and furious between Americans and Canadians in the Bruins’ dressing room. But predictions, at least on the record, were a little harder to come by.

“I hate to be the guy that’s predicting things because I’m pretty bad at it,” said American winger Blake Wheeler. “It’s just one of those things where the goalies are going to make the difference and you have two of the top three goalies in the game playing against each other. So it’s just going to be whoever gets the bounce and I hope it’s going to be a close game. Hopefully they showcase our game like they have the whole tournament because it’s been a lot of fun to watch.”

Predictions might not be Wheeler’s forte, but he can analyze the matchup as well as any of his cohorts.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how the Canadian guys respond,” he said. “I think you know what you’re going to get out of the American team. I think they’ve sort of done it game in and game out throughout the tournament. They are what they are. They’re extremely tough to play against, [and have] great goaltending. I think it’s just going to be one of those games where the longer the score stays close, or in the Americans’ favor, the better for them and [they can] keep that crowd out of the game.”

Defenseman Mark Stuart maintained the players’ prediction-free credo.

“I’ll be rooting on the Americans and it’s going to be exciting,” said the American. “I’m so excited for those guys and it’ll be a good game. I’ll predict a close game, I guess. That’s all Ill say."

Canadian-born Bruins coach Claude Julien knows that predictions can only get him in trouble. He has a Bruins player on each side -- Patrice Bergeron for Canada and Tim Thomas for the U.S. -- and he’s a north-of-the-border native working for the original U.S. NHL franchise. So he also limited his comments to breaking down Sunday afternoon’s game.

“I think the U.S. team has played really, really well, whether they’re loose or not, feeling the pressure or whatever the case may be, I think they’re playing well,” said the coach. “I think Canada is having their highs and lows, as you saw not even just [Friday against Slovakia], but against the Germans, there were stages of the game that they let them back into it. I think it’s pretty obvious they can’t afford to do that tomorrow in the gold-medal game. There’s experience on one side, and then there’s youth and energy on the other. I think it’ll be a really interesting game.”

Note: Everyone was present and accounted for during practice, except for the Olympic participants. One rigorous drill featured players in a 1-on-1 battle of keep-away at center ice for about 15 seconds before one guy was sprung on a breakaway and the other was forced to try to catch up.