Hedican replaces injured Miller on U.S. Olympic squad

Updated: February 6, 2006, 10:41 PM ET
Associated Press

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Bret Hedican has a chance to match the gold medal his famous wife captured 14 years ago.

 Bret Hedican

Hedican, who is married to Olympic champion skater Kristi Yamaguchi, was selected Monday to the U.S. hockey team to replace injured Los Angeles Kings defenseman Aaron Miller.

"To lose a guy like Aaron, certainly is a tough loss for our team," said U.S. coach Peter Laviolette, who also coaches the Hurricanes. "Bret is a guy we talked about when we were putting the team together and somebody I'm very comfortable with. He's been one of our top defenseman here in Carolina."

USA Hockey also announced the three-person taxi squad, whose members will be pressed into action in Torino, Italy, only if a player is knocked out of the tournament by injury.

The additions were Carolina forward Matt Cullen, New Jersey defenseman Paul Martin and Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller. Cullen and Martin are also from Minnesota -- Cullen is a Virginia, Minn., native who went to Moorhead High School and Martin is from Elk River.

The Sabres goaltender has been one of the hottest goalies in the NHL lately, and was not too pleased with how the situation unfolded.

"I'm disappointed it worked out this way," he said during a conference call. "The Olympics are a great honor, and I'm sorry I'm probably going to miss out on it. I'm just moving forward with my career, and I think I'm on a good path right now."

When the original 23-man roster was chosen in December, Ryan Miller was left off because he was recovering from a thumb injury. But he has been in peak form since his return while team members Rick DiPietro (New York Islanders), Robert Esche (Philadelphia Flyers) and John Grahame (Tampa Bay Lightning) have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play.

Earlier Monday, Miller was picked as the NHL Defensive Player of the Week after going 3-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. He is 18-7 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .925 save percentage in 25 games.

Miller has won each of his past five starts and is 12-3 since returning on Dec. 19.

"We made a decision back in December. We all wish we could make this decision today on your whole team because maybe some other positions would change also," said general manager Don Waddell of the Atlanta Thrashers. "Ryan has come back from his injury and has performed very well, but we're very comfortable with the three guys we've named and we're going to roll with them."

Ryan Miller will stay back on standby since there are already three goaltenders on the team. Cullen and Martin will make the trip and will practice with the team in Italy.

Hedican will be making his second Olympic appearance. He had no points in eight games during the 1992 Albertville Games -- the same Olympics that Yamaguchi won the women's figure skating gold medal.

Yamaguchi, a two-time world champion, was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in December -- one month after giving birth to the couple's second daughter.

Hedican has five goals and 13 assists in 51 games with Carolina this season while averaging more than 20 minutes played per game.

With the additions of Hedican and Cullen, Carolina now has four players on the U.S. squad.

"I can guarantee that's not why they're on the team," Laviolette said. "They're on the team because they've earned it. Bret Hedican is on his way to one of his best years in the league."

Hurricanes right wing Eric Cole was an original pick as was Doug Weight, who was traded by St. Louis to Carolina last week.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press