U.S. players deny NHL-fuelled friction

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

Krissy Wendell and Angela Ruggiero are speaking.

Their relationship is fine.

The American forward and defenceman will pass the puck to each other in tonight's gold-medal game.

There was a chance of trouble on the weekend, however, considering what happened in the race for the final playoff spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference.

Ruggiero, you see, works for the New York Islanders in the off-season as the director of Project Hope, which aims to provide young Chinese athletes with access to higher education.

Wendell, meanwhile, is engaged to Toronto Maple Leafs forward John Pohl. They are both from Minnesota and live together in a waterfront condo in Toronto.

So when the Islanders stole the final playoff spot from the Leafs with a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, the potential for friction was there.

"We were head to head -- kind of," Ruggiero said with a laugh. "Nah, we're fine. We're on the same team."

Wendell thought the situation was kind of odd, too.

"We were laughing," she said. "I think it's funny that it did come down to that after 80 games, but no, Ang and I are great."

Wendell talked to Pohl on Sunday night, and she reported that he's doing fine, despite the way Sunday's Islanders-Devils game unfolded. New Jersey scored with 0.9 seconds left to tie it, giving Pohl and his teammates some hope.

"He's doing good," Wendell said. "It's a long year. It's a tough way (to lose), but at the same time he said there's games they could've won during the year.

"They came off on a win. They had a great game on Saturday (a win over Montreal), and then they had to sit and watch, so it was a hard thing to do."

YOU'RE HIRED: Ruggiero would love to have another gold medal to show Donald Trump later this month when she takes part in the season finale of The Apprentice.

"He's already impressed with my existing three," the Harvard grad said with a chuckle. "No, it's great. I'm going out to L.A. for the season finale, and he's a huge hockey fan. He offered me a job even though I got fired."

Ruggiero, who taped the show last summer in Los Angeles, was fired by the Don in an episode that aired last month. She said she even received calls of support from her fellow contestants prior to the worlds.

"I didn't make any enemies on that show," she said, "which is very, very hard to do."

AROUND THE GLASS: U.S. head coach Mark Johnson planned on informing his starting netminder for the gold-medal game -- either rookie Jessie Vetter or veteran Chanda Gunn -- last night ... Canada beat the U.S. 5-2, 8-0 and 6-3 in the first three world finals.


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