Forty-eight players will convene Monday and Tuesday in Arlington, Va., for the U.S. Men's National Team Orientation Camp, the next step in preparing for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
There won't be any on-ice sessions for the players at the Washington Capitals' practice facility because of the prohibitive costs of insuring their NHL contracts, but it will be an opportunity for USA Hockey management and its coaching staff to meet as a group and individually with a collection of Olympic hopefuls.
The United States will be trying to medal in an Olympic tournament not held in North America for the first time since winning the silver in 1972 at Sapporo, Japan. The Americans have won silver in the two Olympics held in North America with NHL players in 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2010 (Vancouver), but have finished sixth and eighth in the 1998 (Nagano) and 2006 (Turin).
Sixteen of the 48 players expected to attend the camp were on the 2010 U.S. team that lost to Canada in overtime of the gold-medal game in Vancouver. Eight of the other 32 invitees have won a gold medal at the World Junior Championship: four (John Carlson, Cam Fowler, Jake Gardiner and Derek Stepan) in 2010, and four (John Gibson, Alex Galchenyuk, Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba) in 2013.
There will be plenty of focus on the competition for the three roster spots for goaltenders. Ryan Miller, named the top goalie at the 2010 Olympics, will be in Arlington, but at least four of the other five netminders -- Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, Cory Schneider and Craig Anderson -- could end up as the No. 1 for the Americans. Gibson is a long shot to make the team from this group, but goaltending should be a strength for the United States at the tournament in February.
Eleven of the 18 defensmen expected to be at the camp have not reached their 25th birthday. Four of the 18 -- Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Brooks Orpik and Ryan Suter -- were on the team in Vancouver four years ago.
There will be 10 potential returnees up front among the 24 forwards. Three -- David Backes, Dustin Brown and Ryan Callahan -- are captain of his NHL team and, along with former New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise, look like the top candidates to be referred to as "Captain America."
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile leads the group charged with selecting the American team; it includes fellow NHL general managers Stan Bowman (Chicago Blackhawks), Dean Lombardi (Los Angeles Kings) and Ray Shero (Pittsburgh Penguins), and former GM Brian Burke. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was picked to coach the team, and his assistants will be Philadelphia Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards and Pittsburgh assistant Tony Granato.
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