Team USA finally made it out onto the ice for practice yesterday, and head coach Dan Bylsma rolled out an all-Minnesota line of David Backes, Zach Parise and T.J. Oshie. While line combinations can obviously be changed at a moment’s notice, familiarity seemed to be a prevailing theme as Bylsma put his troops through the motions.
He spoke to Shawn P. Roarke of NHL.com about the importance of chemistry for a tournament like the Olympics:
In putting together a team, there are going to be chemistry situations. That’s something you can’t get in three days of practice and find in a game. That’s certainly not the only situation on the team where we will have a potential for chemistry.
The “situation” that Bylsma was referring to was the reunited line of Dustin Brown, Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler. That trio was outstanding during the stretch run of Team USA’s charge for a Gold Medal last season, and remained intact for the squad’s first practice.
Bylsma seemingly leaned on a certain comfort level when piecing together the all-Minnesota line as well. Backes and Oshie are familiar with each other due to playing with the St. Louis Blues, while Parise was expected to be able to meld with the duo. How lines like this click moving forward will be a definitive storyline for Team USA and just about every other squad in the tourney.
Some of the non-superpower teams are icing groups of players from various teams around Europe and have that to lean on, while the likes of the Americans will need to get comfortable quickly to compete at a high level in Sochi.