There is a lot of uncertainty in the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the March 5th trade deadline approaches, which means a lot can change in a short period of time before the March 5th trade deadline. Minnesota Timberwolves Pro Shop . Scott Cullen presents the 2014 Trade Deadline Playbook for the Eastern Conference. Its been accepted that the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins are clearly the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but there are so many teams still involved in the playoff race that buyers and sellers cant be easily differentiated without a few more results. Buffalo, Florida and the New York Islanders are the three teams that can be considered sellers, but there are six teams between 61 and 64 points, with Detroit (64 points in 58 games) currently holding the final playoff spot. If a few more of those teams fall further behind than their current two or three-point deficits, that could help initiate more trade activity. A couple of notes about the following chart: Restricted Free Agents (RFA) have contracts that expire this summer, barring a contract extension in the meantime, but their current team retains the right to match a contract offer so long as they make the requisite qualifying offer. While restricted free agents havent moved a lot, its worth noting when decision time is coming on a young players contract. Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) have contracts that will expire this summer and, without a contract extension, they will be free to sign with whatever team they choose on July 1. These are the players that often move in "rental"-type deals, ideally providing a short-term fix with minimal commitment required. Top prospects are the top five players in each organization, but other top prospects may be listed among other players of interest. Contending teams may be more likely to dangle a prospect or two as they try to find that final piece for their playoff mix, while its safe to assume that young and rebuilding teams arent going to move top prospects unless they get a significant long-term piece in return. Other players of interest will include prospects who have spent some time in the NHL this season as well as players under contract for future seasons that may have some level of attractiveness on the trade market. IMPORTANT: Just because a player is listed as being of interest, it doesnt mean he will be traded or should be traded. Some may just be of interest for teams looking to hit a home run when trying to swing a deal or they are players that may be considered to be underachieving for the money they are due over the rest of their contract. Generally, then, heres a rough guide for which players each Eastern Conference team might have at their disposal in order to make a trade leading up to the deadline. The Western Conference Playbook can be viewed here. BOSTON BRUINS UFA in 2014: Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton, Chad Johnson. RFA in 2014: Reilly Smith, Jordan Caron, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski. Top Prospects: Malcolm Subban, G, Providence (AHL)Ryan Spooner, C, Providence (AHL)Alexander Khokhlachev, C, Providence (AHL)Joe Morrow, D, Providence (AHL)Seth Griffith, RW, Providence (AHL) Others of Interest: Adam McQuaid, Anthony Camara, Ryan Fitzgerald, Matt Fraser, Zach Trotman. No-Trade Clauses: Milan Lucic (modified), David Krejci (modified), Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly, Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk (modified), Dennis Seidenberg (limited). The Plan: The Bruins have been getting by just fine since D Dennis Seidenberg suffered his season-ending knee injury, but finding a veteran defenceman to eat up some of those minutes has to be a priority for a team that is expected to challenge for a title. Its one thing to get quality minutes from Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller, its another to go into the playoffs with them taking prominent roles and Bartkowski has been playing about 21 minutes per game since the start of January. The Bruins made some moves in the offseason, notably shaking up their right wing, but there is a lot of continuity on this roster, with a stable core that has enjoyed playoff success in recent seasons. BUFFALO SABRES UFA in 2014: Matt Moulson, Steve Ott, Cody McCormick, Zenon Konopka, John Scott, Matt DAgostini, Kevin Porter, Henrik Tallinder, Alexander Sulzer, Ryan Miller. RFA in 2014: Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno, Jamie McBain, Brayden McNabb. Top Prospects: Rasmus Ristolainen, D, Rochester (AHL)Nikita Zadorov, D, Rochester (AHL)Joel Armia, RW, Rochester (AHL)Jake McCabe, D, Wisconsin (Big 10)Mark Pysyk, D, Rochester (AHL) Others of Interest: Drew Stafford, Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson, J.T. Compher, Matt Hackett. No-Trade Clauses: Christian Ehrhoff (modified), Ryan Miller (limited). The Plan: New GM Tim Murray gets to put his stamp on the organization and has a challenging position to take right off the bat if hes going to deal G Ryan Miller, who has clearly been the Sabres best player this season. But, Miller will be an unrestricted free agent and is attractive enough that he should bring a quality package in return. There are several other Sabres veterans that could be moved, including LW Matt Moulson, C Steve Ott and D Henrik Tallinder, and its easy enough to look at the Sabres and shed all veterans as they build for the future -- expecting that they are still a few years away from icing a competitive team -- but Buffalo will have to keep a certain number of vets around if only to reach the salary floor next season. CAROLINA HURRICANES UFA in 2014: Manny Malhotra, Radek Dvorak, Joni Pitkanen, Ron Hainsey, Mike Komisarek, Anton Khudobin, Justin Peters. RFA in 2014: Jiri Tlusty, Drayson Bowman, Nathan Gerbe, Justin Faulk, Brett Bellemore. Top Prospects: Ryan Murphy, D, Charlotte (AHL)Victor Rask, C, Charlotte (AHL)Brock McGinn, LW, Guelph (OHL)Phil Di Giuseppe, LW, Michigan (Big 10)Danny Biega, D, Charlotte (AHL) Others of Interest: Alexander Semin, Riley Nash, Jay Harrison, Justin Shugg. No-Trade Clauses: Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Tuomo Ruutu, John-Michael Liles, Mike Komisarek, Cam Ward. The Plan: Right on the edge of the playoff picture, the Hurricanes are too close to sell, so they could make a move to upgrade in the short-term while not surrendering future value because their crop of prospects isnt great. The Canes have an excess in goal, carrying three on their NHL roster now that Cam Ward is healthy, and that could lead to a minor deal, shipping out Justin Peters. If G Anton Khudobin continues to hold the crease, its also feasible that the Hurricanes might consider a new home for Ward, though that deal might be easier to orchestrate in the offseason. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS UFA in 2014: Marian Gaborik, Derek MacKenzie, Blake Comeau, Nikita Nikitin, Curtis McElhinney. RFA in 2014: Ryan Johansen, Corey Tropp, David Savard.. Top Prospects: Tim Erixon, D, Springfield (AHL)Alexander Wennberg, LW, Frolunda (SEL)Kerby Rychel, LW, Guelph (OHL)Oscar Dansk, G, Erie (OHL)Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Portland (WHL) Others of Interest: Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Jack Johnson, Mike Reilly, Marko Dano. No-Trade Clauses: Marian Gaborik, Nathan Horton, R.J. Umberger, James Wisniewski (modified), Fedor Tyutin (modified). The Plan: The Blue Jackets are in the playoff picture and have been there largely without much contribution from RW Marian Gaborik, so they could use Gaborik -- a pending UFA -- as a trade chip, or simply add him back into the lineup for a scoring boost. The challenge, and its an enviable one, with adding Gaborik to the lineup is that the Blue Jackets have a relatively deep and balanced group up front. Ryan Johansen is their one emerging star, but the rest of their forwards can be moved up and down the depth chart and its worked well enough that maybe the Blue Jackets would be willing to part with Gaborik, but theyre also a team that doesnt have game-breaking scorers and, while that hasnt been Gaboriks effect this season (scoring five goals and 12 points in 18 games), he has that pedigree. Otherwise, there may be some interest in D Jack Johnson and, as some have noted, the Blue Jackets would do well to listen to any teams expressing serious interest. DETROIT RED WINGS UFA in 2014: Daniel Alfredsson, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary, Patrick Eaves, Kyle Quincey, Jonas Gustavsson. RFA in 2014: Tomas Tatar, Luke Glendening, Danny DeKeyser. Top Prospects: Anthony Mantha, RW, Val dOr (QMJHL)Tomas Jurco, RW, Grand Rapids (AHL)Riley Sheahan, C, Grand Rapids (AHL)Teemu Pulkkinen, RW, Grand Rapids (AHL)Petr Mrazek, G, Grand Rapids (AHL) Others of Interest: Johan Franzen, Drew Miller, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff, Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Sproul, Xavier Ouellet. No-Trade Clauses: Pavel Datsyuk (partial), Stephen Weiss (modified), Daniel Alfredsson, Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi (modified), Danny Cleary, Niklas Kronwall, Jonathan Ericsson (modified), Jimmy Howard, Jonas Gustavsson (modified). The Plan: In a tough spot as it pertains to the playoff chase because leading scorer Henrik Zetterberg left the Olympics with a back injury and its been tough sledding through injuries for Detroit this season already. While injuries have contributed to the Red Wings struggles this year, they have also allowed the next generation of Red Wings forwards -- including Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan -- to play. If theyre pushing for a playoff spot, the Wings always have assets that they can move for immediate help. FLORIDA PANTHERS UFA in 2014: Marcel Goc, Brad Boyes, Scott Gomez, Krystofer Barch, Jesse Winchester, Mike Weaver, Tom Gilbert, Mike Mottau, Ryan Whitney, Matt Gilroy, Tim Thomas, Scott Clemmensen. RFA in 2014: Jimmy Hayes, Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson, Dylan Olsen. Top Prospects: Drew Shore, C, San Antonio (AHL)Alex Petrovic, D, San Antonio (AHL)Mike Matheson, D, Boston College (HE)Vincent Trocheck, C, San Antonio (AHL)Rocco Grimaldi, RW, North Dakota (WCHA) Others of Interest: Tomas Kopecky, Sean Bergenheim, Shawn Matthias, Jacob Markstrom, Kyle Rau, Quinton Howden, Colby Robak. No-Trade Clauses: Tomas Fleischmann (modified), Scottie Upshall (modified), Brian Campbell (limited), Tim Thomas. The Plan: There was a bit of a competitive stint after their terrible start, but the Panthers have fallen back again and are playing for next season. There are several veterans to shop heading towards the deadline and young players should get ample opportunity to play big minutes in the final quarter of the season. Perhaps the most interesting decision involves veteran D Tom Gilbert, a bargain free agent signing after he was bought out by Minnesota last year, who has had a fine year on the Panthers top pair, which would figure to make him appealing as a trade chip, but maybe hes been good enough that the Panthers would rather have Gilbert as part of their defensive core for the next few seasons too. MONTREAL CANADIENS UFA in 2014: Brian Gionta, George Parros, Andrei Markov, Francis Bouillon, Douglas Murray. RFA in 2014: Lars Eller, Dale Weise, Ryan White, P.K. Subban. Top Prospects: Nathan Beaulieu, D, Hamilton (AHL)Jarred Tinordi, D, Hamilton (AHL)Sven Andrighetto, RW, Hamilton (AHL)Sebastian Collberg, RW, Frolunda (SEL)Dalton Thrower, D, Vancouver (WHL) Others of Interest: David Desharnais, Michael Bournival, Michael McCarron, Christian Thomas, Jacob De La Rose. No-Trade Clauses: Tomas Plekanec (modified), Brian Gionta, Daniel Briere, Rene Bourque (modified), Travis Moen (modified), Andrei Markov (modified), Josh Gorges (limited). The Plan: The Canadiens are in playoff position, so theyre theoretically in the market to add, rather than subtract, but theyre also saddled with the likes of Daniel Briere and Rene Bourque who arent producing nearly enough to match their contracts. If the Canadiens are going to make noise this season, though, it may be a result of players like LW Alex Galchenyuk and D Alexei Emelin performing better as they come back from injuries. Emelin endured a rough start to the year, but was making progress prior to joining Team Russia for the Olympics and Galchenyuk, the second-year forward, has been productive enough, though he could get a few more minutes if the Habs are going to take advantage of his high-end skill. NEW JERSEY DEVILS UFA in 2014: Jaromir Jagr, Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta, Marek Zidlicky, Mark Fayne, Martin Brodeur. RFA in 2014: Andrei Loktionov, Jacob Josefson. Top Prospects: Jon Merrill, D, Albany (AHL)Eric Gelinas, D, Albany (AHL)Damon Severson, D, Kelowna (WHL)Reid Boucher, LW, Albany (AHL)Stefan Matteau, RW, Albany (AHL) Others of Interest: Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner, Reece Scarlett, Raman Hrabarenka. No-Trade Clauses: Travis Zajac, Patrik Elias, Ryane Clowe, Dainius Zubrus, Anton Volchenkov, Marek Zidlicky, Martin Brodeur. The Plan: On the fringe of playoff contention, the Devils have some bodies to move if they decide to go that way. Jagr has resisted trade talk, which is fair enough since hes been a bit of nomad since returning to the league, but hes had such a strong season that a team seeking an offensive upgrade would have to consider him (how about finally joining Tomas Plekanec in Montreal?). Martin Brodeur says he hasnt contemplated a trade yet, but if the Devils are going to look ahead to the future, the guys on the north side of 40 dont have to be part of the plans. At the same time, if the Devils are going to move them, anything to upgrade the forward talent in the organization should be a priority. NEW YORK ISLANDERS UFA in 2014: Thomas Vanek, Eric Boulton, Radek Martinek, Andrew MacDonald, Evgeni Nabokov. RFA in 2014: Casey Cizikas, Calvin de Haan, Kevin Poulin. Top Prospects: Ryan Strome, C, Niagara (OHL)Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton (WHL)Ville Pokka, D, Karpat (SML)Ryan Pulock, D, Brandon (WHL)Matt Donovan, D, Bridgeport (AHL) Others of Interest: Josh Bailey, Michael Grabner, Matt Carkner, Brian Strait, Anders Lee, Johan Sundstrom, Scott Mayfield, Adam Pelech, Anders Nilsson. No-Trade Clauses: Lubomir Visnovsky. The Plan: The Islanders were already out of the playoff race before C John Tavares suffered a season-ending knee injury at the Olympics, but that makes their next moves all the more important as they try to ice a more competitive club in 2014-2015. Since the Islanders couldnt get LW Thomas Vanek to sign an extension, GM Garth Snow needs to attempt to recoup some of the value he sacrificed in acquiring Vanek from Buffalo early in the season. If D Andrew MacDonald isnt prepared to sign a team-friendly deal (and advanced stats suggest he should), then the Isles might as well deal him and add more assets for the future -- same as it ever was. NEW YORK RANGERS UFA in 2014: Ryan Callahan, Brian Boyle, Benoit Pouliot, Dominic Moore, Daniel Carcillo, Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman, Darroll Powe, Arron Asham. RFA in 2014: Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider, Justin Falk, John Moore. Top Prospects: J.T. Miller, RW, Hartford (AHL)Danny Kristo, RW, Hartford (AHL)Jesper Fast, RW, Hartford (AHL)Anthony Duclair, LW, Quebec (QMJHL)Dylan McIlrath, D, Hartford (AHL) Others of Interest: Derek Dorsett, Kevin Klein, Pavel Buchnevich. No-Trade Clauses: Rick Nash, Brad Richards. The Plan: The Rangers have gained ground after a slow start and have a team that can contend in the East. While RW Ryan Callahan and D Dan Girardi are notable unrestricted free agents, the Rangers are would have to get roster players in return since a playoff team cant justify dealing prominent players for no immediate help. OTTAWA SENATORS UFA in 2014: Milan Michalek, Matt Kassian, Chris Phillips, Joe Corvo. RFA in 2014: Cory Conacher, Stephane Da Costa, Eric Gryba, Robin Lehner. Top Prospects:Curtis Lazar, C, Edmonton (WHL)Mark Stone, RW, Binghamton (AHL)Matt Puempel, LW, Binghamton (AHL)Shane Prince, LW, Binghamton (AHL)Jean-Gabriel Pageau, C, Binghamton (AHL) Others of Interest: Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Jared Cowen, Patrick Wiercioch, Mark Borowiecki. No-Trade Clauses: Jason Spezza, Clarke MacArthur, Chris Neil (modified), Chris Phillips (limited). The Plan: On the outside looking in at the playoffs, the Senators might have the talent to push for a berth, and while they are open to adding a power forward to play alongside Jason Spezza, it appears that the Senators wouldnt take on significant money in any deal. That shouldnt preclude a rental, but it also may not preclude the Senators selling if they lose a couple coming out of the break. If the Senators are buyers, they have a solid farm team in Binghamton from which they could offer a prospect or two in order to find a winger that can improve their attack. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS UFA in 2014: Steve Downie, Adam Hall, Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros, Ray Emery. RFA in 2014: Brayden Schenn, Michael Raffl, Erik Gustafsson. Top Prospects: Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa (OHL)Mark Alt, D, Adirondack (AHL)Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Union (ECAC)Samuel Morin, D, Rimouski (QMJHL)Tye McGinn, LW, Adirondack (AHL) Others of Interest: Sean Couturier, Matt Read, Luke Schenn, Nick Cousins, Robert Hagg. No-Trade Clauses: Scott Hartnell, Vincent Lecavalier, Wayne Simmonds (modified), Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn (modified), Nicklas Grossman (modified) The Plan: Like the Rangers, the Flyers are playing much better after a slow start; they have enough talent to make some noise, though blueline improvements wouldnt hurt. Philadelphia made their bed in goal with Steve Mason, and could live to regret it, but signing him to an extension likely precludes a notable change in that spot. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS UFA in 2014: Jussi Jokinen, Taylor Pyatt, Tanner Glass, Chuck Kobasew, Joe Vitale, Chris Conner, Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland. RFA in 2014: Brandon Sutter, Jayson Megna. Top Prospects: Derrick Pouliot, D, Portland (WHL)Simon Despres, D, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)Scott Harrington, D, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)Brian Dumoulin, D, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)Brian Gibbons, RW, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) Others of Interest: Beau Bennett, Brian Gibbons, Robert Bortuzzo, Josh Archibald. No-Trade Clauses: Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis (limited), Chris Kunitz (modified), Paul Martin (limited), Brooks Orpik (limited), Rob Scuderi (modified). The Plan: For a Stanley Cup contender, the Penguins do have some notable needs. The search for Sidney Crosbys right winger (in the absence of injured Pascal Dupuis) continues and Pittsburgh might want to add immediate help on the blueline as insurance for D Kris Letang, who recently suffered a stroke. Finding a winger to complement Crosby shouldnt be that difficult, but its become bit of meme that Crosby is so difficult to play with. Drop in someone like Matt Moulson and see if he likes pulling the trigger on Crosbys setups. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING UFA in 2014: Tom Pyatt, Sami Salo, Brian Lee. RFA in 2014: Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Anders Lindback. Top Prospects: Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax (QMJHL)Andrey Vasilevskiy, G, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL)Vladislav Namestnikov, C, Syracuse (AHL)Brett Connolly, RW, Syracuse (AHL)Slater Koekkoek, D, Windsor (OHL) Others of Interest: Nate Thompson, B.J. Crombeen, Richard Panik, Adam Erne, Andrej Sustr. The Plan: Tampa Bays big addition will be the return of C Steven Stamkos, but Lightning could go for help on defence if they are looking to capitalize on this season -- its not every year that you get the goaltending they are getting from Ben Bishop. One advantage that the Lightning have is that they have a well-stocked system, cultivated over the past few seasons, so they have some attractive assets to move, including forwards that havent been able to crack the Lightning lineup, if they go looking for immediate help. TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS UFA in 2014: David Bolland, Nikolai Kulemin, Jay McClement, Mason Raymond, Troy Bodie, Trevor Smith, Jerred Smithson, Paul Ranger. RFA in 2014: Peter Holland, Carter Ashton, Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner, James Reimer. Top Prospects:Matthew Finn, D, Guelph (OHL)Stuart Percy, D, Toronto (AHL)Josh Leivo, LW, Toronto (AHL)Andreas Johnson, C, Frolunda (SEL)Frederik Gauthier, C, Rimouski (QMJHL) Others of Interest: Frazer McLaren, Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Biggs, Jerry DAmigo, Greg McKegg. No-Trade Clauses: Phil Kessel (limited), Joffrey Lupul (limited), David Clarkson (modified), Tyler Bozak (modified), Tim Gleason, Paul Ranger. The Plan: Sitting in a playoff spot after a great run leading up to the break (but also due, in part, to nine shootout wins) the Leafs anticipate getting David Bolland back from injury, and while they are surely happy with the results theyve been getting, the Leafs should never turn down the opportunity to improve their defence. For all the progress the Leafs have made in the standings, their possession numbers havent shown improvement, which means the team, as currently constructed, is going to need continued excellence from G Jonathan Bernier if theyre going to hold their playoff position. WASHINGTON CAPITALS UFA in 2014: Mikhail Grabovski, Tyson Strachan. RFA in 2014: Dmitry Orlov. Top Prospects: Evgeny Kuznetsov, RW, Chelyabinsk Traktor (KHL)Riley Barber, RW, Miami-Ohio (NCHC)Andre Burakovsky, LW, Erie (OHL)Philipp Grubauer, G, Hershey (AHL)Madison Bowey, D, Kelowna (WHL) Others of Interest: Joel Ward, Marcus Johansson, Jason Chimera, Eric Fehr, Jay Beagle, John Erskine, Connor Carrick, Nate Schmidt, Michal Neuvirth. No-Trade Clauses: Brooks Laich (limited), Martin Erat, Troy Brouwer (modified), Mikhail Grabovski, Mike Green (modified). The Plan: The Capitals havent played all that well this year, yet are still in the playoff mix if they can finish strong (thanks, in part, to a league-high 15 shootout results). Basically, they need someone other than Alexander Ovechkin to score and a goaltender that is able to take the reins and that could be enough to get into the postseason, but this isnt a good enough team to mortgage the future, either, so adding a veteran or two at minimal cost may be the plan of attack. * - Contract information comes from the wonderful www.capgeek.com. Check out their trade machine here. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. Wesley Johnson Jersey . The kind he has every so often. The kind he has when Dwyane Wade sits. James scored 43 points -- 25 in a bewildering first-quarter shooting display -- and Chris Bosh added 21, leading the Miami Heat to a 100-96 win Tuesday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers, who played their first game without injured All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. Nikola Pekovic Jersey . According to Dave Stubbs of The Montreal Gazette, preliminary talks have begun between Markov - an unrestricted free agent this summer - and general manager Marc Bergevin.SOCHI, Russia – The Canadians had to hurl nearly 60 shots at the Latvian goal to scratch their way into a semifinal matchup with the Americans, but by the time it was over head coach Mike Babcock was convinced the experience would be beneficial, much as it was four years earlier. "Did I want to win 7-1? Absolutely,” said Babcock after a nervous 2-1 win in the quarter-finals against Latvia. “Do I think its better for my team that we won the way we did? For sure." It took every bit of mustard his team could find to finally get past the unlikely challengers from Latvia – a team they had never lost to in either the Olympics or World Championships – and avert disaster. Kristers Gudlevskis, an unheralded 21-year-old draft pick in executive director Steve Yzermans Tampa Bay Lightning organization, stopped 55 shots and held the Canadians to just a single goal for the first 53 minutes of regulation. Patience was tested and tested again and again with every chance, opportunity and flurry squashed by the apparent back-up Latvian netminder, starting with a Sidney Crosby breakaway in the opening moments and continuing right on through the rest of the night. "Obviously when youre talking about 10 minutes left in the third and you look up and youve got 50-some-odd shots you dont want it to be one of those nights," said Crosby after the win. "I think that you just try to trust that eventually those chances will go in, stick with it." Patrick Sharp became just the fourth Canadian forward to score, his first goal in the middle frame matched minutes later on a mildly shocking Lauris Darzins breakaway. From there the Gudlevkis show rolled on in ever-surprising fashion, some of the most gifted offensive talents on the planet stonewalled by a goaltender who was starting for the American Hockey Leagues Syracuse Crunch as recently as Feb. 5. There was the stop on Jeff Carter in alone in the second period, a blocker save on Rick Nash in the third, a jam attempt by Chris Kunitz just a few minutes later. For a forward contingent struggling to score these were familiar troubles building in a game that Canada had no business not winning. "If you look at tonight besides picking the puck up and throwing it in the net what could you tell someone to do in those situations," said Crosby, who still has yet to score in this tournament. "We had some great chances. Youre getting chances like that theres not a lot you would change. Its not like you were going in there adjusting and trying to figure something out. I think its just the ultimate test of your patience when youre getting chances like that and you need to find a way to score.&" Its ultimately that persistence and push through the wall of a hot goaltender that Babcock believes will benefit his team moving into a 2010 gold medal game re-match with the Americans on Friday. Andrew Wiggins Jersey. Though they had only mild difficulties against Norway and Austria, the Canadians really only faced a stiff test from Finland in the final game of the preliminary round, a tilt they scratched out in overtime on the second of two goals from Drew Doughty. On this night it was another defenceman proving the hero. Shea Weber fired a cannon past Gudlevskis with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation, easing the nerves of a tense nation on the other side of the globe. "We just talked about the hockey gods," Babcock said. "You just keep doing things right, youre going to be rewarded. We had some chances. So we just thought if we kept doing it, wed get our chances, wed get a break, wed score a goal." Though they inched closer to it in the close win over Latvia, Canada has yet to truly resemble the powerhouse it was expected to be here in Sochi. But they have, true to Babcocks word, gotten better with each day gone by. They enter the semifinal, however, as an unlikely underdog, squaring off against an American squad thats stomped all of its competition here in Sochi. With the hottest player on the planet in Phil Kessel – who has nearly as many goals here in Russia (five) as the entire Canadian forward group (six) – and a battle-tested Jonathan Quick between the pipes, the U.S. has the look of a favourite in what should be an enticing rematch of the gold medal game in Vancouver. "Its what its all about," said Jonathan Toews of the matchup. "Canada-USA, I think has become a bigger rivalry than Canada-Russia. Theres a lot of animosity, lot of feelings like theres something to prove between both teams. Its for the chance to go play for a gold medal. It doesnt get any better than that." It took a few bumps and a similar crescendo for Canada to top the U.S. in Vancouver in 2010. There were familiar stumbles along the way – including a preliminary round loss to the U.S. – but ultimately, the Canadians got their game together as the tournament stretched on, dominating the Russians in the quarter-final before edging the Slovaks and Americans en route to gold. Babcock is mindful of that path when he looks at the winding road thus far in 2014. "The Olympic Games isnt supposed to be easy,” he said. “They dont just give the medals out. You earn the medals. Now wed like to put ourselves in a situation to compete for one and we have another day to prepare [on Thursday]." ' ' '