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Burke Wants Toughness on Team USA

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Brown, a perennial league-leader in hits, is the type of player that Brian Burke is looking for on Team USA.

WOODRIDGE, Ill. -- While the Americans might field one of the youngest teams at the 2010 Winter Games, it also figures to be ornery too.

The hockey world would expect nothing less from a team being partially constructed by Brian Burke, a general manager long regarded for building teams that hit early and often.

"We will have some size on this team," Burke said. "I always build my teams (by) top six and bottom six, and I don't see any reason to do it differently here -- although it could also be top nine, bottom three. There will be some beef and muscle on this team."

For several of the 34 players attending the Olympic orientation camp, playing a hard game comes naturally. Eight players were ranked among the top 38 hitters in the NHL last season, including defensemen Brooks Orpik, Mike Komisarek and Tim Gleason and forwards Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, David Backes, Ryan Malone and Dustin Byfuglien.

"It's well noted that the North Americans like to play the rough and tough style of hockey," Backes told "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."

Backes, 6-foot-3, 216-pounds, finished 18th with 204 body checks in 2008-09. Komisarek, who signed with Burke in Toronto as a free agent in July, finished 25th with 191 hits as a Canadien last season.

"You're playing against the top players in the world so you want to get in their face and make it difficult for them," Komisarek said. "You want to make them worry about you more than you worrying about them putting the puck in the net."

Team USA Associate General Manager David Poile realizes that the Olympic team able to showcase speed, strength and quality goaltending throughout the tournament has a better chance to advance.

"Brian (Burke) has publicly stated that it's going to take all different types of players to be successful and he wants and needs size to compete with these teams," Poile said. "We have some skilled guys like (Patrick) Kane and (Phil) Kessel, but they aren't the biggest players."

Orpik, who played a key physical role in Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup last June, finished second in the NHL with 309 hits.

"I think the Olympics are different this year because it won't be on an Olympic-size ice rink, so those young players won't underestimate the difference that can make," Orpik said. "On Olympic ice, there's so much more space to get lost. But really, every team that Burkie has assembled, whether it was in Vancouver, Anaheim and now in Toronto, his blueprint has always been hard-nosed teams. He wants good balance and we know that's definitely something you need in a short tournament."

Jamie Langenbrunner, who played in the 1998 Olympics and the 2004 World Cup, knows the importance of balancing a roster.

"You have to build a team for these tournaments so you can't get caught up in bringing in the same type of player -- you can't fit six centermen over two lines," Langenbrunner told "The thing is every team is trying to do it. You see Team Canada doing the same thing with (Milan) Lucic and (Brenden) Morrow getting invites to their camp."

Byfuglien, who made a name for himself in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the physical tone he set, will do whatever it takes to earn a spot for Team USA.

"I definitely think I'm one of those guys who needs to come in and play a physical role and if that's what they need and want to go with, I'm going to go out there and give it all I got," said Byfuglien, who compiled 169 hits last season. "It'd be an honor for me to put on a USA jersey and be in the Olympics."

Contact Mike Morreale at

Author: Mike G. Morreale | Staff Writer

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