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Goals galore: U.S. puts Kessel, van Riemsdyk and Pavelski on line

Feb 10, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT

KesselJVR Getty Images

It’s early, but the U.S. has put together a sniper-filled line for Sochi.

Monday’s practice was highlighted by the Phil Kessel-James van Riemsdyk-Joe Pavelski trio, featuring three of the NHL’s top 20 goalscorers this season.

Kessel, second in the league with 31 tallies, looks as though he’ll retain his Toronto running mate van Riemsdyk for the Olympic tourney. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise — as we saw with Canada, teams are looking to utilize the chemistry built between teammates during the regular season (Sidney Crosby-Chris Kunitz, Jonathan Toews-Patrick Sharp and Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry were all paired at today’s Canadian skate.)

The interesting wrinkle in Sochi, though, will be Pavelski. The San Jose center is currently enjoying one of the best goalscoring campaigns of his career, with 29, putting him tied for fourth in the league with Getzlaf and just two back of Kessel as the top American scorer.

Amazingly, this means that van Riemsdyk — who has a career-high 24 goals already this season — is the lowest scorer on his line.

The other American forward lines were equally compelling. In keeping with the teammates theme, St. Louis forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie skated with team captain Zach Parise; Ryan Kesler centered Dustin Brown and Patrick Kane; Paul Stastny was between Max Pacioretty and Ryan Callahan while Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler were the extras.

FYI: Brown and Kesler are less than a month removed from fighting each other…

UPDATE: The defensive pairings, per Sports Illustrated, are Cam Fowler-Ryan Suter, Ryan McDonagh-John Carlson, Kevin Shattenkirk-Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik-Justin Faulk.

  1. sjsblitz - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Lulz. I feel bad, Kane is going to have to play peacekeeper with Brown and Kesler

    • guitarhunterdude - Feb 10, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      Nah, he’ll just be the scorer/judge for their diving competition.

      • sjsblitz - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:06 PM

        I cant like that comment enough

      • jrclark1978 - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        HaHa! Awesome.

  2. bcsteele - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:03 PM

    I will not understand why you don’t use the simple methodology of putting an ELITE playmaker like Kane on a line with an ELITE sniper (or snipers). Why would you stack your first line like that? They’ll all want to just shoot the puck.

    Coming from a Blues fan who Kane simply makes cringe every time he comes down the ice on my team, Kane was one of the only players who could reliably carry the puck in the zone in 2010. If they give him some scoring weapons he’ll kill it with his maturity now. Plus it spreads your depth.

    Plus, speaking of my Blues, give Oshie and Backes a elite scorer on their line and you may be surprised. They’ve shown it all year with Backes in front of the net, Steen playing the sniper role, and Oshie has been an AWESOME disher of the puck this year. Give them an elite sniper and you never know. I would argue this could be one of the most balanced lines USA has.

    Of course, there’s a reason I’m not calling the shots either, but just my thoughts.

    • 19to77 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      Pavelski is a great shooter, but he’s actually a great playmaker too. He’s expected to be the passer on that line, I’m sure.

      With Kane I’m sure the goal is that Brown and Kesler drive the net while Kane holds possession, comes in high and fires through their screen, but I think they’d have been better putting Pacioretty on that line and dropping Brown to grind detail. He’s been just plain bad this year and Pacioretty is a great finisher who’d potentially combine beautifully with Kane.

      That Parise-Backes-Oshie line, though… damn. That’s fearsome. Those guys do everything right.

    • skr213 - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:56 PM

      Pavelski has been the playmaker for most of Logan Couture’s career goals (contrary to what people on the East Coast might think, Thornton was not the reason for Couture’s goals), so as 19to77 said, he can definitely fill that role very easily.

  3. strictlythedanks - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Oshie Backes Parise

    Gotta love that all Minnesota line

    • guitarhunterdude - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:43 PM

      It’d be a better traditional “checking” line with Brown there rather than Parise. I suppose we’d be wasting Oshie and Backes’ offensive talents then, though. They should be an absolute force on the forecheck.

      • strictlythedanks - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:10 PM

        Ya I just keep hoping Brown will not get much playing time, what a liability he is. Not to metion a chump.

  4. nunan - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:09 PM

    Wheeler over Okposo still bothers me. I understand the bigger ice surface and Wheeler’s range and nifty hands. Would still rather see Okposo though.

    • jpelle82 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:53 PM

      i sickly kinda hoped that pacioretty wouldve been really hurt the other night so okposo could go in his stead.

  5. mackattack29 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    Lol love seeing kane on the third line. Doesn’t deserve any better what a joke of a player. Everyone forgets about how he beat up and robbed a taxi driver. I’m surprised anyone wants him representing a country.

    • stepanup - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:30 PM

      Nobody forgets. We’ve just moved on. The kid has grown up and is an elite player. Time to accept it.

    • pastabelly - Feb 10, 2014 at 3:48 PM

      Do you watch the games? Probably the single most stupid comment I’ve read.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Feb 10, 2014 at 8:10 PM

      There are only two things I can’t move on from when it comes to Kane: 1) he should’ve been a Flyer, and 2) he scored the worst Cup ending goal in NHL history. I could care less about the taxi incident.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Feb 10, 2014 at 8:59 PM

        Brett Hull’s Cup winner was way worse. Not my opinion. It happens to have more scientific agreement than climate change or evolution or the world being round.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Feb 10, 2014 at 10:29 PM

        While I agree Brett Hull’s skate was clearly in the crease (hence making it a no goal according to the rules at the time), it’s a shot that would’ve been in the back of the net anyway if Hull’s left skate was a few inches back (plus its a good goal under todays rules). He had almost an entire net to shoot at. Kane was practically past the goal line, 25 feet away, when he wristed a duck at Leighton, who was in a position that ANY competant NHL netminder would’ve easily knocked the puck away. Hull’s goal was a travesty at the time, Leightons inability to make a routine save in the Flyers biggest game in decades will lead to “what ifs” in Philly for generations.

        Especially since the goal came from a guy, who if we had any luck, would’ve been in orange and black. Pittsburgh sucks for half a decade and doesn’t drop a spot, the Flyers suck one year and lose out to a team with the 5th worst record in the NHL. But I’m sure Buffalo fans will wholeheartedly disagree with me.

  6. hammerhead5573 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Macattack29 you are the ground zero of stupidity.

  7. btlpper68 - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:16 PM

    Pac should play with Kane, Pac is a sniper and can do some serious damage playing with a human pass machine like kaner

  8. stepanup - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Very surprised by some of these combinations. Obviously a lot of thought goes into this but I don’t see the logic in putting Kane with Brown. The first line and fourth line I have no problem with but I would’ve done this for the middle two.

    Second Line: Parise – Kesler – Kane. SPEED. Parise’s play around the net, with Kesler’s two way play and dirty work would open up space for Kane. Makes too much sense to me.

    Third Line: Brown – Backes – Oshie: Brutal to play against, and their styles seem to match much more.

  9. 2qswing - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:36 PM

    Brown, Backes, Oshie is ok but Brown is a liability no matter where you put him. Doesn’t even deserve to be on the team. slow, cant score, stupid penalites, not a great combination for international play.

    • guitarhunterdude - Feb 10, 2014 at 1:46 PM

      Yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan of his selection at all. Granted he’s in a bit of a shooting slump this year that’s probably just bad puck luck, but he’s been pretty ineffective all around. Not to mention the D corps this year (Paul Martin? Cam Fowler on the top pair?). Fairly shoddy roster construction all around this year, IMO.

      • strictlythedanks - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:14 PM

        I don’t think it will matter too much who they pair with Sutes, He will be out there with more than one guy because of his iron lungs plus he makes the other D man’s job that much easier.

      • bsaures - Feb 10, 2014 at 3:43 PM

        Thats all well and good when you are playing in the NHL where half of those shifts are against 3rd and 4th line guys who dont crack 30 pts in a full season but in the olympics on the bigger ice especially against teams like Canada where they have guys who have 50 points so far this year playing on the 4th line it will tire him out much quicker and he wont be as effective. You have to have 3 great d pairings or 1 will be exploited easily.

  10. jpdoc26 - Feb 10, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    In Dan We Trust

  11. slysipops - Feb 10, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    wouldn’t be great to see the men’s team and the women’s team, both bring home the GOLD !

  12. jhaegs - Feb 10, 2014 at 9:00 PM

    I’d say Brown would only help as waterboy, but we’ve all seen his water bottle “skills”…

  13. slickvb82 - Feb 11, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    @bsaures you think Suter only plays against 3rd and 4th liners?? What planet are you living on, bud?! haha….he’s matched up against 1st and 2nd lines, along with PP & PK…I think he’ll handle himself just fine. Even against these 50 point guys he hasn’t seen all year (sarcasm).

    • bsaures - Feb 11, 2014 at 12:44 PM

      If you read the comment you would have seen I said half genius. Yes he does play against top lines but he also gets plenty of time against less talented players a luxury he wont have playing against some of the top olympic teams. Canadas 4th line as of right now is Tavares, Bergeron and Benn all players that play on top lines of their respective clubs. If they try to make him play 30 mins against players like that all night he will be burnt out by the second period

      • slickvb82 - Feb 12, 2014 at 2:28 AM

        Ok, you’re right, I apologize that I missed the half part. I should have specified a little further with my argument. He is on an Olympic roster, they won’t need him to play 30+ minutes like he does for the Wild. The US defense is young so that will be interesting to see if that helps or hurts him as far as too much playing time. I’m a Wild fan and have watched him the past two seasons, I’ve never seen somebody that can manage their effort like he does. He knows when he needs to move, when he can sit back, when he needs to jump in a play so on. Bottom line is he will be just fine, even on Olympic size ice that he has played on before.

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