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Tough Trip Ahead For USA’s Stastny and Rafalski

Just over 24 hours after playing in an incredibly emotional and physically-draining gold medal game, Paul Stastny and Brian Rafalski will make the trip to Denver to meet with their respective teams for tomorrow’s game between Detroit and Colorado. It’s a tough turnaround for the American teammates, who battled together the past two weeks and came within an overtime goal of winning the ultimate Olympic prize.

You have to wonder what it’s like to play as teammates, representing your country one day and then the next you’re staring down each other in a matchup of two teams battling for position in the standings. Did Rafalski ever pull Stastny aside in practice in hopes of getting a quick tip on the best way to beat Craig Anderson? Did they share a knowing look as they both departed the United States’ locker room after the loss? There’s a good chance they’re sharing a plane tonight.

Of course, all NHL players will tell you that it’s just part of the job and they move on. It’s a known fact that 90% of hockey players try to destroy each other on the ice, yet can be great friends off the ice with no issues one way or the other. So I’m sure that Rafalski and Stastny will treat other just like they would in any other game they’ve played in.

If the game were Wednesday, or Tuesday even, then at least the players have had more than one night’s sleep to get past the game and settle back into their NHL lives. Yet they’ll have had just a a restless night and a three hour flight between tomorrow’s game and today’s heartbreaking loss. You wonder if it’s easier to recover from a win or a loss; there’s bound to be an emotional let down after such a tremendous win for the Canadians, while the United States players could go back to their teams more confident and determined than ever.

Yet the most interesting turnaround will be for Mike Babcock. The Red Wings coach will go from leading the Canadians to a gold medal, to trying and get his NHL team back on track and back into a playoff spot. The Wings enjoyed a bit of a surge in January, but struggled headed into the Olympic break with just three wins in the last ten games.

Any guesses as to what Babcock says to Rafalski at tomorrow’s skate? My money is on “Silver looks good on ya.”