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vancouver games

U.S. Hockey Team Already Off to a Better Start Than 2006

Whether you think this year's American hockey team is too young to succeed or an under-the-radar contender, there's no doubt that they're already off to a better start than their 2006 counterparts. That year, a more experienced U.S. squad mustered only a tie against Latvia, and never really recovered, finishing off the medal stand four years after taking home silver. This year, against a more formidable opponent in Switzerland, the Americans won their opening game, and didn't look half bad doing it.

They've got some things to work on, for sure, mostly having to do with allowing fewer odd-man rushes. And though at 3–1 they had a firm grasp on the game, they allowed the Swiss team to tilt the ice in their favor in the third period without really making them pay for taking risks. That said, we could watch David Backes's second-period rush up the ice, which gave the Americans a 2–0 lead, on a continuous loop all day long. On paper, the game played out as it probably should have: The Americans are the better team, but the Swiss aren't pushovers. But better still for the Americans, who even coach Ron Wilson admits are still "a chemistry experiment," they get Norway tomorrow, against whom they should be able to try out whatever line combinations and defensive pairings they'd like prior to Sunday's highly anticipated match against Canada.

Speaking of Norway, as expected, they appear to be the weak link the United States' group after being smoked by Canada 8–0 in one of two blowouts last night (the other being Russia's 8–2 win over Latvia). But today's action brings one of the best preliminary-round matchups: the Czech Republic versus Slovakia. You'll need to stay up late for this one, though: The puck doesn't drop until midnight, New York time.

Photo: Cris Bouroncle/AFP/Getty Images