Sochi Olympics: Hockey’s Dan Bylsma has a chance to coach his own golden moment

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While Bylsma allows there are similarities between the Olympics and what he faced during those first days in Pittsburgh, that doesn’t mean it will be any easier when he gathers Team USA together next month.

“It’s an uncomfortable thing for a coach,” he said. “I’m just introducing myself to these guys right now.”

The fastest coach to 200 victories in NHL history is already the all-time winningest coach in Pittsburgh history. He surpassed Eddie Johnston’s mark of 232 wins last week.

When the franchise paid a video tribute to Bylsma during a stoppage in play in Wednesday night’s game against Washington, the sellout crowd at Consol Energy Center rose to its feet.

It was an homage hard to imagine last spring, when the high-powered Penguins looked listless in a four-game sweep by Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

Rather than change course, Pittsburgh rewarded Bylsma with a two-year contract extension. It’s not a coincidence that Malkin and star defenseman Kris Letang signed lengthy extensions of their own days after Bylsma’s new deal was announced.

The grinder who spent nine years in the NHL toiling on fourth-line shifts has become adept at handling highly skilled — and highly paid — players, a trait that should serve him well in Sochi.

“He’s not shy by any means,” Crosby said. “I think being able to communicate with guys well is important and kind of getting your point across as early as possible is important and it’s something he excels at.”

For the U.S. to advance to the deep rounds, Bylsma will have to. He is preaching a defensive mindset but will also have perhaps the most talented American team of all-time at his disposal.

It’s a good problem to have.

If he can lead the U.S. team to gold, Bylsma won’t get one. The Olympics don’t give medals to coaches.

“An opportunity to coach for your country,” he said, “what more do you want?”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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