- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2014

Some of John Carlson’s teammates on the Washington Capitals have a message for him as he prepares with his U.S. Olympic teammates for Friday’s semifinal matchup with Canada.

Play well, pal. Have a good game.

But lose.

“No. No. No,” Caps forward Troy Brouwer said with a laugh after a query about feeling good for Carlson if the U.S. pulls off the victory.

“I’d like to see John play a good game. He is a teammate and a good friend. But at the end of the day, I’m Canadian. Proud through and through just as any American would say. I want my country to win.”

The U.S.-Canada game, a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game won in overtime by Canada, is scheduled to start at noon Eastern time. The Caps who aren’t participating in the Olympics are scheduled to begin a practice session 90 minutes beforehand. Caps coach Adam Oates said he expected the team’s focus to be a bit off, something that doesn’t surprise or disappoint him.

SEE ALSO: U.S.-Canada rivalry renewed in Olympic hockey semifinals

Heck, Oates wants to see the game, too. The players don’t figure to stick around long after they get off the ice.

Carlson won’t have much support among the Caps. He’s one of three Americans on the current roster, along with injured defenseman Jack Hillen and rookie defenseman Connor Carrick. Canada is represented by a dozen current Caps in addition to Oates.

“We’ve been giving it to them,” Brouwer said. “I think they’re feeling pretty confident. The U.S. team has looked real solid the entire tournament and Canada is kind of finding their way still. Hopefully it is a good, exciting game. I know a lot of players on both teams. That fact makes it interesting. You see the rivalry there and you feel like you’re involved with it. I think the 2010 Olympics had a lot to do with the excitement in this building and around this team.”

Carrick was 15 when that 2010 game was played. He remembers watching it at the rink where he practiced with his junior team. He wouldn’t have guessed four years later he’d be in the NHL with a teammate playing in rematch. He’s also not going to talk too much smack. Besides being a rookie, he’s badly outnumbered in his locker room.

“I missed some of the preliminary rounds. Canada-U.S. comes up, I’m not going to miss that one,” Carrick said. “The talk has been U.S. has been playing a good team game, they’re really clicking right now. In these short tournaments, a team that’s clicking is really dangerous. We saw that with the Finns and the Russians.

“The Canadians have a good team, but the U.S. is playing solid hockey. The U.S. gets my vote, obviously. I want to see Carly have a good game. Above all I want the red, white and blue to come out on top. I remember the last time they played. Hopefully the result is the other way around.”

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Brooks Laich, another of the Caps’ Canadian players, thinks his country will win 3-2 with Corey Perry scoring the game-winner.

“You have a vested interest because it is your country. You also have a vested interest because you have friends you cheer for,” said Laich, who spent part of last season’s lockout playing in Switzerland. “I watch those games to see guys from my time there play.

“You cheer for your country first, you cheer for your friends second. I think it will be a game where no team sits back, both teams go at it hard and fast.”

Hockey isn’t the only sport being discussed during the Games. Curling gets a lot of talk as it is very popular in Canada. Oates said he’s enjoyed watching the endurance skiing events. But with medals so close now in hockey, it is beginning to dominate the conversation.

“I’ll watch the rest of the way,” Brouwer said. “The preliminary games are a lot of fun. But it is like the Stanley Cup playoffs. When it gets down to the last few teams, it gets more exciting.”

The Caps also have two players in Friday’s first semifinal. Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson are playing for Sweden, which takes on Finland. If they advance to a gold medal game against Canada, they can expect the full Carlson treatement from a dozen of their teammates: Play well and lose.

About the only Capital who is impartial is general manager George McPhee. He was born in Canada but quick to point out, “I have dual citizenship.

“I just want to see a good hockey game.”

• Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@washingtontimes.com.

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