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U.S. roster for '10 Olympics revealed

1/1/2010 - Olympic Sports

Not since NHL players started going to the Olympics 12 years ago
has the U.S. team featured so many fresh faces.

Of the 23 players chosen Friday for next month's games, only New
York Rangers captain Chris Drury, New Jersey counterpart Jamie Langenbrunner
and Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski will carry
Olympic experience with them into what could be the most-watched
hockey tournament ever.

Aging American stalwarts such as Mike Modano, Bill Guerin, Keith Tkachuk and Scott Gomez will all be able to rest during the long
break in February because they were left off the team that will
head to Vancouver.

The infusion of up-and-coming players is hardly a surprise. Team
USA general manager Brian Burke made it clear last summer is was
time to turn the page on those who represented the United States
time and time again on the international stage.

"We're going there to win," said Burke, the Toronto Maple
Leafs' GM.

He thanked those "warriors" when most veterans weren't invited
to the team's orientation camp in August. Modano, the longtime
Dallas Stars forward, and Montreal's Gomez were in attendance, but
didn't do enough during the first half of the NHL season to earn a
spot on the team.

The roster announcement was made at Boston's Fenway Park
following the host Bruins' 2-1 overtime victory against the
Philadelphia Flyers in the annual outdoor Winter Classic.

The average age of this year's club is slightly over 26.
Rafalski is the oldest player at 36, while 21-year-old Chicago
Blackhawks star forward Patrick Kane is the youngest. That is quite
a change from the former foundation that included then-44-year-old
defenseman Chris Chelios four years ago.

Modano played in three Olympics, and Gomez was on the team for
the 2006 Turin Games. Langenbrunner will be making his second
appearance, but first since 1998, and will be joined by Devils
teammates defenseman Paul Martin and fellow forward Zach Parise.

Martin started the season as a virtual lock, but a broken left
forearm curtailed his chances. Just when it seemed he would return
last week, Martin had a setback in his recovery that made surgery
necessary. When it was revealed he would be out another month, it
seemed likely he would be kept off the roster.

The Los Angeles Kings are the only other NHL club to place three
players on the squad: goalie Jonathan Quick, defenseman Jack
Johnson, and forward Dustin Brown.

The Americans' greatest strength could be in goal, where Buffalo
Sabres star Ryan Miller is expected to be the No. 1 netminder.
Should he falter, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas of the
Bruins will be there to pick up the slack. Behind them is the
soon-to-be-23 Quick.

"I've been waiting 30 years for this opportunity. I couldn't be
happier," Thomas said after beating the Flyers.

That trio should match up favorably with host Canada's
formidable goalie crew of Martin Brodeur, Marc-Andre Fleury and
Roberto Luongo. Brodeur is the NHL career leader in wins and
shutouts.

"The goaltending position was probably the easiest one for us
to get through," Burke said. "It's one where we've got some
depth.

"We're excited about our chances."

Miller missed the Olympics four years ago because of a thumb
injury that kept him out early in the 2005-06 season, but he is
making up for that. Heading into Friday, he had a 21-8-3 record
with a sparkling 2.05 goals-against average in 33 games.

"He has played really well, unfortunately several of those
games have been against us," Burke said.

The 25-year-old Parise will be counted on for offense. He is
coming off a season in which he had 45 goals and 94 points. So far
this season, Parise has 17 goals and 25 assists. He had gone 12
games without a goal before busting out with two Monday in New
Jersey's win over Atlanta.

He will be joined up front by St. Louis' David Backes, Drury's
Rangers teammate Ryan Callahan, Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver
Canucks, Toronto's Phil Kessel, Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone, San
Jose's Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks, and
Colorado's Paul Stastny.

The remaining defensemen are Erik Johnson of St. Louis,
Toronto's Mike Komisarek, Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins,
and Nashville's Ryan Suter.

Suter's father, Bob, was a defenseman on the 1980 U.S. "Miracle
on Ice" team that won gold at Lake Placid, N.Y.

"It means a ton with the family tradition. I don't think it has
sunk in yet," Ryan Suter said. "I will be able to sit at the same
table with those guys if I bring some hardware home."

The United States hasn't captured the gold since 1980, and has
only a 2002 silver medal since NHL players started going to the
Olympics for the 1998 Nagano Games. The Americans finished eighth
in Turin.

"Obviously, they pick you for a reason. I think everybody on
the team is an important piece," Suter said. "I credit guys like
Chelios, Tkachuk, my uncle [Gary Suter] and [Jeremy] Roenick, all
those guys paved the way for us and put USA Hockey on the map in
the Olympics. I'm just excited to be a part of that now."

This year's team will be led by Toronto coach Ron Wilson. His
assistants are Rangers coach John Tortorella and the New York
Islanders' Scott Gordon.

Burke was joined by fellow NHL GMs David Poile (Nashville), Paul
Holmgren (Philadelphia), Don Waddell (Atlanta), Dean Lombardi (Los
Angeles), Ray Shero (Pittsburgh), along with Jim Johannson, the
assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey,
in choosing the roster.

"We had some difficult decisions to make, but that's a credit
to USA Hockey and depth of the player pool in our country," Burke
said.