U.S. trying to get lines in order
Look for head coach Dan Bylsma to keep Kane and Kesler together to start the tournament. Bylsma also said Backes and Parise will be very hard to play against.
On defense, reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban again found himself not among the top six, but the Montreal Canadiens star won't complain in his first Olympic Games. "Listen, I'm not going to spend any energy analyzing what's going to happen in the tournament," Subban said. "I'm going to take whatever role I am given and excel at it. That's your job as a pro. That's your job as an Olympic hockey player and representing your country. As a citizen of Canada, that's your job. It's your duty to do that.
"I'm just excited that we're only a couple of days away from starting the tournament. It's probably going to fly by a lot quicker than we think, so I'm just trying to enjoy every moment."
Subban also knows that players in the past have started with smaller roles but have grown to more ice time when given a chance.
"This is Canada. We want to win," Subban said. "We come here to win just like every other country, but as a country where hockey is such a big sport, and such a big part of our culture, we take it very seriously. The best players will play. Look at our team. We have so much talent and so many players who are capable of playing.
"It's not a knock on anyone if they're playing seven minutes a game, not playing at all or playing a lot. You've just got to have a positive attitude and go into it with a lot of energy and optimistic. That's the way everybody is looking at it."
U.S. taking nothing for granted
Although the Americans are hungry to win their first gold medal since 1980, they insist they aren't taking anything for granted, regardless of their finish in Vancouver.
Finishing second four years ago guarantees the U.S. nothing this time, captain Zach Parise said.
"We know how hard it is to get back there. A lot of things have to go right," he said. People sometimes confuse the idea with the big ice of Europe with a more up-tempo, faster game. Not so. In fact, Parise said that's part of the evolution for NHL players coming to a tournament like this. In the NHL, you're taught to always finish your check and play in straight lines.
"Always going 100 miles per hour all over the ice," Parise said.
But if you do that in Sochi, you can find yourself out of position, which opens up passing and shooting lanes to opponents, the Minnesota Wild winger explained.
"Sometimes being a little more passive is a better play," Parise said.
2014 just the beginning
No one on the U.S. team has played more international games throughout his career than Ryan Suter. And you can number him among those who hope the NHL will return to the Olympics in four years' time when the event is held in South Korea.
"We enjoy the Olympics; we think it's an unbelievable experience," Suter said. "There's no greater experience in international play than the Olympics."
Interesting that such sentiments cut across national lines. Russia's Evgeni Malkin was asked the same question earlier Tuesday and gave pretty much the same answer.
"As a hockey player, I would like to say the Olympics are very important for every athlete, every sportsman," Malkin said via a translator. "I think any hockey player would like to participate in the Olympics every four years, so I would like to participate in the next Olympics."