Pro chemistry is a key element in Olympic hockey

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 8, 2014 at 1:43 am •  Published: February 8, 2014
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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Although Corey Perry can tell Ryan Getzlaf what to do with a nod of his head after nearly 11 years together, Getzlaf usually doesn't even have to look at Perry to know where he's going on the ice.

Their chemistry was built while spending their entire pro careers as teammates and linemates in the Anaheim Ducks organization, but Canada is about to get the benefit in Sochi.

"It's huge to play with somebody you know in the Olympics," Getzlaf said. "We don't have time to get to know everybody as players, because it's too short of a tournament. When you already have that chemistry, it can be a big advantage. I already know how (Perry) plays the game, and so we try to play it the same way over there."

Every coach acknowledges there's just no time to build a real team during the frantic 12-day, 12-team Olympic men's hockey tournament. Once the jetlagged NHL players finally convene in Russia on Monday, they'll get only a couple of practices together before play begins Wednesday night.

That's why many nations selected their rosters with chemistry already built in. Teammates from around the NHL, Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and Europe's domestic leagues are heading to Sochi under the same flag, hoping their long-term bond will pay off in the Olympic sprint.

"I think you know what to expect from one another, and you can just go out there and know what the other guy is going to do," said Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, who will play for Canada with fellow Blackhawks Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith.

"I think it's an adjustment enough to be playing on that Olympic sheet, with the time change and all the other things you want to throw in the pot. Being around guys you play with every day is a big bonus when you're trying to play your best hockey."

Nobody has embraced togetherness like Sweden, which had six players from the Detroit Red Wings on its initial Olympic roster. When Johan Franzen was ruled out with a concussion, he was replaced by a seventh Detroit Swede — and Gustav Nyquist happens to be Henrik Zetterberg's left wing.

Sweden also selected defensemen Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who play together in Chicago. Twins Henrik and Daniel Sedin were obvious choices as well, although Henrik's bruised ribs will keep him home in Vancouver.

"If you look at how the team was picked, there are a lot of guys who have chemistry," Zetterberg said. "The more you are familiar with the guys you're going to play with, the easier it is in a tournament like this. We'll basically have one practice — maybe two — before the games begin. For Sweden, our team doesn't change too much between tournaments, and I think that'll help us."

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