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Posted On Sunday, 12.29.2013 / 6:51 PM

By Brian Compton -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Islanders' Okposo in mix for U.S. Olympic roster spot

As a team, the New York Islanders have not been able to build off what they accomplished last season, when they qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2007.

But right wing Kyle Okposo continues to make strides, so much so that the Minnesota native is meriting serious consideration to be named later this week to the United States roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Skating on the top line alongside Thomas Vanek and John Tavares, the 25-year-old ranks second on the Islanders with 34 points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 39 games. He had 24 points (four goals) in 48 games last season.

Okposo's 34 points have him in the top five among American skaters this season.

"It's in the back of your mind, obviously," Okposo said of making the Olympic team, which will be named immediately following the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Wednesday. "World Junior tournament is going on right now, so I've been following that a little bit. You think about the international competition a little bit, but I'm here with the Islanders, and I'm still going to keep playing well."


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Posted On Thursday, 12.12.2013 / 5:35 PM

By Dan Rosen -  NHL.com Senior Writer /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Blue Jackets GM has eye on Finnish players

NEW YORK -- Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is quietly doing extra work away from his day job scouting players who are on the bubble for Finland's Olympic team.

Kekalainen was named Finland's assistant general manager in late October. The Finns have won the silver medal (2006) and two bronze medals (1998 and 2010) since NHL players started participating in the Olympics in 1998.

"I've gone to see the players we need to see," Kekalainen told NHL.com. "We obviously don't have the deep depth chart of Canada or Team USA. We only have four defensemen that play in the NHL now. It's not like we have to scout 50 NHL players to make a decision on who is going to play. There are going to be a certain number of guys that we're pretty sure that they're going to be on the team and then there are a handful of guys that we have to make decisions on. We're concentrating on those guys, watching those guys more. I watch a lot of video, but I've seen everybody live too."

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Posted On Thursday, 12.12.2013 / 2:34 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Canadiens' Galchenyuk remains on USA Hockey radar

PHILADELPHIA -- About this time a year ago, Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk was preparing for a big international tournament in Russia.

Back then he was a forward with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League getting ready for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.

A lot has changed for Galchenyuk in the past year, but one thing remains the same -- he's still thinking about a big international tournament in Russia. Only this time, it's the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"You think about it because it's coming up," Galchenyuk told NHL.com. "But you have no ideas. It's in the air."


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Posted On Thursday, 12.05.2013 / 10:12 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Giroux performs well with Olympic audience

Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux picked the right night to have a strong game.

Giroux, hoping for a spot on Canada's roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, had a goal and an assist, four shots on goal and won 16 of 25 faceoffs -- including eight of 11 in the defensive zone -- in the Flyers' 6-3 defeat of the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

Watching in person was Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, as well as Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who will reprise his role as Canada's Olympic coach.

Giroux was invited to Hockey Canada's summer evaluation camp but had to skip it while recovering from surgery to repair severed tendons in his index finger sustained in a summer golf outing. However, Yzerman told the Philadelphia Daily News on Wednesday that Giroux's absence from the summer camp wasn't being held against him.

"We would have liked him to come," Yzerman said. "But he was busy rehabbing. That's fine. That doesn't make a difference."


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Posted On Tuesday, 12.03.2013 / 3:06 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Past U.S. stars know no miracles necessary in 2014

As young hockey players, Bill Guerin and Doug Weight were drawn to hockey in part to the success of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" United States Olympic hockey team.

Today, though, both know that no miracle would be needed for the U.S. to win the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"I think where we are now with USA Hockey, I don't think it would be a miracle anymore and I don't think it would shock the world," Guerin said Monday, prior to his induction into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame. "That's the position USA Hockey has put itself in. We go not only to compete but to win. We expect to win."


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Posted On Monday, 12.02.2013 / 10:34 AM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Seven NHL referees, six linesmen going to Sochi

The officiating crews for the 2014 Sochi Olympics were announced by the International Ice Hockey Federation on Monday.

The men's tournament will have a mix of officials from the National Hockey League and international levels. The international officials were selected by the IIHF officiating committee from a pool of 32 candidates for the men's tournament and 22 for the women's.

"All of these candidates are considered to be top officials in their respective club leagues," IIHF officiating manager Konstantin Komissarov said in a statement. "We made our decisions on three main criteria: physical conditioning, performance in their respective national championships, and their ability to work in a team."

The NHL is well represented with seven referees and six linesmen of the 28 total officials (14 referees and linesmen each). Among the referees are NHL veterans Dave Jackson, Mike Leggo, Brad Meier, Tim Peel, Kevin Pollock, Kelly Sutherland and Ian Walsh. Sweden's Marcus Vinnerborg, a one-time NHL referee, will appear in his second Olympic tournament.


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Posted On Wednesday, 11.27.2013 / 12:24 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Injury to Penguins' Martin could impact U.S. team

The Pittsburgh Penguins' loss of Paul Martin for the next 4-6 weeks with a fractured tibia will have a severe impact on the Penguins' blue line -- and perhaps the United States Olympic team.

Martin, injured during the Penguins' game against the Boston Bruins on Monday, has two goals and nine assists with a team-high 25:16 minutes per game. The lockdown defenseman formed the Penguins' top pairing with Brooks Orpik and had a role on the top power-play unit. In fact, both are under consideration to compete for the U.S. in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. NHL.com's U.S. roster projection has Martin paired with John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.

Martin will be out until Christmas and perhaps after New Year's Day, and that puts his potential spot in jeopardy. The U.S. team will be announced Jan. 1 as part of the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. When it comes to the Olympics, Martin has had some tough luck. He's twice been named to Olympic teams, but didn't see any action in the 2006 Turin Games and missed the 2012 Vancouver Games due to a broken arm.

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Posted On Saturday, 11.23.2013 / 7:57 PM

By James Murphy -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Bylsma impressed with Canadiens' Galchenyuk

MONTREAL -- After a 27-point rookie season, Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk is showing he's the real deal again with 16 points in his first 23 games of 2013-14.

With Montreal hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at Bell Centre, Galchenyuk had a chance to get noticed in person for Olympic consideration with USA Olympic coach Dan Bylsma behind the Penguins bench.

But according to Bylsma, Galchenyuk has been on his radar for the past three years. If he had it his way, Bylsma would've been coaching Galchenyuk for the Penguins. He first met the Canadiens rising young star at the 2012 NHL Research and Development Camp in Toronto and was instantly impressed.

"I met Alex a couple summers ago at the NHL Development camp when he was a prospect and 17," Bylsma said. "Two-and-a-half days there in Toronto and I was fortunate to coach him there. We kind of had our eyes on those players when they were going into their draft year."


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Posted On Tuesday, 11.19.2013 / 6:58 PM

NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

'Miracle' captain Eruzione sees Sochi success for US

NEW YORK -- Mike Eruzione, in New York City to discuss the upcoming rivalry game at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30 between Cornell University and his alma mater, Boston University, couldn't help but talk about the upcoming 2014 Sochi Olympics.

After all, Eruzione was the captain of the last United States team to win Olympic gold, at the 1980 Lake Placid Games. Almost 34 years later, he's impressed by the depth and variety of hockey talent that has developed in the U.S. He believes that deep talent pool could help the U.S. capture gold in Sochi.

"I wouldn't want to have to pick the team because there are so many good players," Eruzione told NHL.com. "It's been incredible growth in hockey. When I was playing, it was Minnesota, Massachusetts and Michigan. Now it's Florida, Texas, Arizona, California. Nowhere would we have thought some of these picks are coming out of the places they're coming from. The growth is good, and we're a country now that goes into these tournaments as a favorite."


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Posted On Tuesday, 11.19.2013 / 4:48 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Jones, Galchenyuk still under Olympic consideration

Nashville Predators general manager David Poile, who holds the same role for the United States for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, said he and his staff have trimmed their targeted group of defensemen to 12, and that Predators' 2013 first-round pick Seth Jones is among that group.

"He absolutely does," Poile said in an interview Tuesday with Sportsnet's Fan 590 radio when asked if Jones had a chance of making the team. "We're going to take eight defensemen and we're down to approximately 12 and [Jones] is one of them."

Jones, the fourth pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, has two goals and six assists in 20 games and leads all rookie defenseman with an average ice time of 24:04 per game. He has spent most of the season on the Predators' top pair with Shea Weber, although he recently was pushed back to second pair with Kevin Klein.

Jones also was one of 18 defensemen invited to USA Hockey's National Team Orientation Camp in August.


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