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Malone fits the Olympic mold of GM Burke

Wednesday, 01.13.2010 / 4:19 PM / All-Access Vancouver

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

"I assume (the Olympics) will probably be like playoff-like hockey where we'll be throwing lots of pucks on net. I'll just try and get there and grab all the garbage I can. I'm definitely looking forward to it." -- Ryan Malone

It wasn't too much of a surprise when Ryan Malone got word that Team USA would field a younger and feistier group at the 2010 Olympics in February.

After all, that's precisely what General Manager Brian Burke promised when he spoke to the group at USA Hockey's Olympic orientation camp in August.

"All the guys (at camp) were told the team would be made up of most of the players right out of that camp -- and there were a lot of young guys," Malone told NHL.com. "Everyone understands their different role with the team. The good thing was we had a small group at orientation camp, so we got to come together and had some fun and we kind of understood our jobs as part of the team. So everyone is excited to get there and get going."

Burke has long been regarded as a builder of teams with size and strength -- and Team USA certainly is no exception.

"We wanted some size on this team," Burke said. "There is some beef and muscle."

Not surprisingly, six players on the 23-man U.S. roster are ranked among the top 50 hitters in the NHL this season, including defensemen Brooks Orpik and Jack Johnson and forwards Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, David Backes and Malone. All six players, incidentally, will be experiencing the Olympics for the first time.

"I think if you look at the teams who might be at the top, like Canada, they also have big bodies there and momentum-changers," Malone said. "I think Burkie does a good job of making up a team that can compete at the skill game and the physical game and I think there are a lot of guys here who can do that. That makes us a dangerous team."

He also realizes the United States will be an underdog in Vancouver.

Malone, who has 19 goals, 37 points, 128 hits and a plus-6 rating in 45 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, also knows he might be asked to perform a different job as a member of Team USA -- and he's prepared for that.

"Obviously, you don't know who you'll be playing with or anything, but you go out there and establish a physical presence and cause some havoc around the net," Malone said. "I assume (the Olympics) will probably be like playoff-type hockey where we'll be throwing lots of pucks on net. I'll just try and get there and grab all the garbage I can. I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Backes, who has 25 points and 130 hits for the St. Louis Blues, agrees.

"It's well noted that the North Americans like to play the rough and tough style of hockey," he said. "I'm not one of the most gifted guys around, but I'll try and make up for it with hard work and some intimidation as far as putting a few guys through the boards. That's the style we want to play. We realize it's the Olympic Games and fighting is illegal, but we'll do what we can and use any advantage we have to win that gold medal."

Malone smiled when asked if he called his father -- former Pittsburgh, Hartford and Quebec forward Greg Malone -- upon receiving word he'd be participating in the Olympics. The elder Malone is a scout for the Lightning.

"My dad kind of heard it through the grapevine before I did," Ryan Malone said. "He was in Tampa for meetings and he kind of let me know. He said it wasn't official, but I kind of heard and he's obviously proud. I don't even know what to say because I haven't been over there yet (in Vancouver). The whole experience, I heard, is 10-times more than you could imagine. You get goose bumps talking about it, so it's definitely going to be a special time."

Malone wore the Team USA sweater at the 2004 and '06 World Championships, and scored 5 goals and 7 points in 16 international games in his career.

Malone said he was honored to get the call from associate General Manager David Poile on New Year's Day. He was surprised with how USA Hockey announced the team following the Winter Classic in Boston.

"(Poile) called me right after practice on New Year's Day and left a text and said if you're watching the outdoor game it'll be a pretty neat thing afterwards so tell your family," Malone said. "It was special, seeing a little kid turn around with your name and number on it."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com.