Even though they lost to Canada in unimpressive fashion yesterday, Team USA can still win a medal today by beating the Finns and capturing the bronze. The Finns boast ex-Rangers Olli Jokinen, Lauri Kospikoski, and Jarkko Immonen, in addition to the a few stars (Tuukka Rask, Teemu Selanne, Kimmo Timmonen). The Finns don’t have much offensive punch, but they are probably the best defensive team in the Olympics this year. That stifling defense helped them beat Russia in the quarterfinals, and put up a good fight against Sweden in the semis.
Use this as your open thread for the game. Talk about anything you want, but keep it civil.
Despite earlier reports that the injury to Mats Zuccarello was not serious, the winger and Rangers leading scorer will be out 3-4 weeks with that broken hand. Considering the Olympic break doesn’t end until Thursday for the Rangers, Zuccarello will miss 2-3 weeks of games. That amounts to anywhere from 5-7 games. This is obviously a blow for the Rangers, as Zuccarello has been a huge asset to the team, and has been the backbone of his line with Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot.
The Rangers might not need to make a call up, depending on how well Derek Dorsett progresses from his broken leg. If they do need to make a call up, J.T. Miller would likely be the fill-in.
Better luck this year?
This afternoon, at 12pm Eastern time, the United States will take on their bitter rivals to the north* for the chance at Olympic Gold on Sunday. After losing to the Canadians in the Gold Medal game in Vancouver (for the record, one of the best international hockey games ever played), I can only imagine the Americans are chomping at the bit for another chance at the Red, White and Black.
Since the Americans didn’t bother to show up to Nagano, Japan, where the NHL marked its Olympic debut, this modern rivalry really got started in Salt Lake City in 2002. Prior to his tragic passing, Herb Brooks lead an improbable US squad to what should have been a Gold medal (because destiny), but came up Silver to the Canadians.
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In injury news, Derek Dorsett is skating in a non-contact jersey, and hopes to be ready when the season resumes next week. Dorsett has missed 17 games with a broken leg suffered against Pittsburgh on January 3.
Also, per Steve Zipay, the Rangers –who practiced yesterday– will have practice today, tomorrow, and Monday through Wednesday. The Olympians will rejoin the team on Wednesday for a full team practice.
What does the future hold for McIlrath? (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
When the Rangers made their Michael Del Zotto for Kevin Klein swap with the Predators, they gave up on a frustrating offensive talent and went with the less able but more reliable stay at home, physical type. What they also did was commit to a player whose size and physical ability is likely to be on the Rangers blue line for several seasons. They also committed to someone that inadvertently may be a road block for one of the franchise’s key draft picks, Dylan McIlrath.
While Klein doesn’t possess the same potential snarl or size as McIlrath, the additional four years (at $2.9 million per year) means the Rangers have solidified their third pairing with the type of player they’ve needed for what seems like generations. Is there still room for McIlrath? With his skating ability still his biggest question mark, Mcllrath’s future is at least partly dependent with how Klein acclimatises to New York, with the initial solid performances promising.
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The six remaining Rangers all advanced to the semi-finals of the ice hockey tournament of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Mats Zuccarello (Norway) is the only Ranger that is no longer competing in Olympics, with Norway losing to Russia yesterday.
Sweden (Carl Hagelin, Henrik Lundqvist) shut out Slovenia 5-0 this morning. Hank stopped 19 shots while Hagelin contributed a pair of goals in the win.
Team USA (Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan) eliminated the Czech Republic this afternoon by a score of 5-2. McDonagh notched an assist in the contest, while Callahan was held off the scoreboard in a primarily defensive role. Stepan did not play.
Canada (Rick Nash) needed all 60 minutes to barely squeak by Latvia, winning by a score of 2-1. Nash collected an assist in the contest.
Sweden will face Finland on Friday at 7am. Canada and Team USA will drop the puck at noon.
Yesterday afternoon, the Czech Republic defeated one-time country-mates Slovakia by a score of 5-3 in the qualification round. That win set up today’s game in the quarterfinals against Team USA for a spot to face Canada (probably) in the semi-finals. The Czechs actually came into pool play as the third ranked team in the world. The US was ranked #7 by the IIHF. Entering the quarterfinals, Team USA is ranked third and the Czechs seventh. My how times have changed.
Use this to discuss the game. Team USA is the better team, but the Czechs are still a solid squad. If Latvia can beat the Swiss, then anything can happen.
Per Seth Rothman, citing a Norwegian report, Mats Zuccarello has a small fracture in his injured left hand. Zuccarello suffered the injury Sunday against Austria after taking a slash to the hand, and sat out the elimination game against Russia yesterday. The injury is not expected to be a long-term injury, and Zuccarello could be ready by the time the NHL season resumes on February 27. The injury does not require surgery.
99: Gretzky: His Game, His Story
The best thing I can say about Al Strachan’s 99: Gretzky: His Game, His Story is that it’s different than any other Wayne Gretzky book I’ve read before. That’s not meant to be a small compliment – I’ve gobbled up what feels like a million magazine clippings, biographies and articles online about Gretzky’s life, from his youth in Brantford, Ontario to the big trade with the Kings (if you’re interested in that, check this book out), and finally to the conclusion of Gretzky’s career with the Rangers. Most of them feel very similar.
Strachan writes his book from the point of view of Gretzky’s friend, which is a weakness at times – Strachan goes over the top to defend Gretzky’s reputation – but also a strength due to the personal experiences Strachan has witnessed firsthand and heard about from The Great One himself.
The second chapter hooked me right in as Strachan describes Gretzky’s time with the Blueshirts. There are great little anecdotes about Gretzky’s crisis of confidence in his first season with the team (can you imagine that?) and the back injury that may have ended his career prematurely. Strachan also mentions New York’s efforts to acquire sniper Pavel Bure during the 1996-1997 season to pair with Gretzky, and even the club’s offer to trade The Great One to any other team in the league if he wanted to continue playing elsewhere.
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Mats Zuccarello sat out this morning’s game against Russia, in which Norway lost 4-0 and thus was eliminated from Olympic competition. Zuccarello sat out with a hand injury that was reportedly from either a blocked shot or a slash.
In three games, Zuccarello averaged roughly 20 minutes per game. He finished without registering a point, 10 SOG, 2 PIMs, and a -2 rating.