Why USA men's hockey has an edge

SOCHI, Russia - Russia's identity seems to be Alex Ovechkin's face. Canada's is Sidney Crosby's hands. The Czech team is all about Jaromir Jagr.

The symbol of America's hockey team might be horns and a pitchfork.

One of the keys to the USA's unbeaten record heading into Wednesday's quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic has been its devilish playing style. The players are playing like the fire down below.

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Centers David Backes and Ryan Kesler have been monstrous forces. U.S. coach Dan Bylsma wanted this team to be hard to play against, and Backes and Kesler have stormed around the ice like human tornadoes.

On one shift against Russia, Backes rubbed out Evgeni Malkin and Ovechkin with clean legal hits.

Bear wrestling seems easier than facing Kesler in this tournament. He has hit, bumped or growled at every opponent he has faced in the USA's first three games.

"For the most part, we've done a pretty good of being in the other team's face," U.S. captain Zach Parise said. "And we've been tough to play against without giving up any odd-man rushes."

There's more than one way to build an Olympic team, and the Americans, who will play noon ET on Wednesday, wanted a team that would annoy and frustrate their opponents on every shift.


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