Blues will be a team divided when USA takes on Canada in Sochi
There will be several NHL teammates facing off in the USA-Canada semifinal matchup in Sochi, but no team will have more than the Blues' five representatives. So who will their teammates back in the States be rooting for?
By Nate LatschFOX Sports Midwest
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues, both over in Russia and back here in Missouri, will be a team divided for a few hours Friday when Team USA and Team Canada meet in the Olympic men's hockey semifinals.
Five Blues will take the ice at Bolshoy Ice Dome for the rematch of the gold-medal game at the 2010 Olympics: David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk representing the United States, and Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo playing for Team Canada.
"We had that conversation before we left, that we're going to wear our country's colors and play as hard as we can for our countries and we'll figure out those relationships when we get back to our respective teams," Backes told reporters Thursday in Sochi. "And maybe it takes a cold beverage and someone's got to buy dinner, but we'll smooth that out afterward."
Several NHL teammates will face off in this semifinal matchup, but no NHL team will feature more than the Blues' five representatives. The Blackhawks, Rangers and Penguins are next with four each.
"It's going to be pretty awesome," Blues defenseman Ian Cole said. "Obviously, with Sweden playing Finland and the U.S. playing Canada, there's definitely some border wars going on. But it will be really cool. ... Getting to watch five guys from your team out in the Olympics on one sheet of ice is pretty unheard of. So it's going to be real exciting. Hopefully, my U.S. boys will come out on top, but all the best to Bo and Petro."
There will be no shortage of motivation for either side -- especially the Americans, who will be looking to avenge a heartbreaking overtime loss to Canada in that gold-medal game in Vancouver four years ago.
It will be must-see TV, and the Blues back home won't miss it.
The Blues were initially scheduled to practice at 11 a.m. Friday at the St. Louis Mills but called an audible.
"We had to adjust our practice time on Friday so we can get on the ice and get off so we can watch that semifinal," Blues associate coach Brad Shaw said. "That should be pretty good."
The action among Blues players back in St. Louis watching the semifinal showdown on television could be almost as interesting as the action in Sochi.
On both the Blues' roster and the Olympic rosters, Canadians outnumber Americans -- at least when you count general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock as part of Team Canada.
The Blues' current roster includes 12 Canadians -- Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo, Barret Jackman, Brenden Morrow, Chris Stewart, Jaden Schwartz, Derek Roy, Maxim Lapierre, Ryan Reaves, Carlo Colaiacovo, Brian Elliott along with Alexander Steen, who was born in Winnipeg but is playing for Sweden in the Olympics. Only five U.S. natives -- Backes, Oshie, Shattenkirk, Jordan Leopold and Cole -- are on the St. Louis roster.
Morrow, in his first season with the Blues, was a member of Team Canada in 2010.
"I think it was probably the game that everyone was looking forward to being the gold-medal game, but it's just going to be a game early," said Morrow, who scored two goals for Team Canada in Vancouver. "In Salt Lake they had the final and in 2010 the final there, too. Canada-U.S., it's a great rivalry and good competition, and everyone is going to leave it out there. It's going to be a great game to watch."
Said Jackman: "It should be a great matchup. It could go either way. Both teams are very talented. You look at the list of guys who have been left off of both teams and you could have another All-Star team with those guys. The guys that are there are really working hard, playing hard. And whatever the outcome is on Friday, it's not going to be a surprise."
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The early reports from the Blues' dressing room have the U.S. as a slight favorite based on how the Americans have performed in their first four games in Russia.
The U.S. defeated Slovakia, Russia and Slovenia in pool play to earn the No. 2 seed for the medal round and then defeated the Czech Republic 5-2 in the quarterfinals to advance.
"Team USA, to me, has been the best team over there so far," Shaw said. "They've looked the best. It looks like they are playing closest to their potential. It's going to be a real game Friday, a tough challenge for Canada."
Canada beat Norway, Austria and Finland in pool play to earn the No. 3 seed. The Canadians then beat Latvia 2-1 in an anxiety-filled quarterfinal game to earn the rematch with the Americans.
"They haven't played their best yet, but you just have to win by one," Morrow said of the Canadians. "They are going to need their best in the next game."
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