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Gionta named captain of United States men's team for PyeongChang Olympics

Played 17 NHL seasons with Devils, Canadiens, Sabres

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

Forward Brian Gionta was named captain of the United States men's hockey team for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics on Monday.

Gionta, who hasn't played in the NHL this season, played 17 seasons from 2001-17 with the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres. He was on the United States team at the 2006 Torino Olympics, which lost in the quarterfinals to Finland, and led them with four goals in six games.

The Winter Olympics will take place from Feb. 9-25 in South Korea.

Video: NYR@BUF: Olympic rosters for USA introduced

"Growing up, I think everyone can relate to the Olympics and the magnitude of the Olympics," Gionta said at Citi Field on Monday after the roster was announced during the second intermission of the 2018 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. "It's a dream come true."

Gionta, who turns 39 on Jan. 18, has 588 points (289 goals, 299 assists) in 1,006 NHL games. He's a seven-time 20-goal scorer, including 48 in 2005-06 to set the Devils' single-season record. That season, he had an NHL career-best 89 points. He won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 2003 and was captain of the Sabres from 2014-17.

"It's one thing I haven't been able to accomplish, is an Olympic medal, an Olympic gold medal, so at this point, to be able to go out with that would be unbelievable," Gionta said.

Video: Gionta on being Team USA captain, possible NHL return

The Rochester, New York, native became an unrestricted free agent following the 2016-17 NHL season. He opted to sign with the practice squad of Rochester, the Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate.

Coach Tony Granato said he knew Gionta was the perfect choice to captain the team.

"Pretty much when he said he wanted to do this," Granato said. "We have plenty of other players who are considered good leaders but not Brian Gionta. We're lucky he's American and we're lucky he was willing to do this for us. You talk about character, you talk about what he's done in the game, you talk about the personality ... there couldn't be a more perfect person for that job."

The 23-man roster included 14 forwards, eight defensemen and one goalie. The United States will add two goalies to the roster in the coming weeks.

Tweet from @usahockey: Introducing the 2018 U.S. Olympic Men���s, Women���s & Paralympic Sled rosters! #TeamUSA ����Details ���

Gionta was among 14 players selected who were on the United States roster for the Deutschland Cup from Nov. 10-12 in Germany.

"That was an evaluation process as well," Granato said. "We had to use that tournament to see where the guys were and were they would fit into our plans, but there were a couple of (defense) pairs and lines of guys that we thought played extremely well together that will play together or at least start the Olympics together."

Meghan Duggan was named captain of the United States women's team. She had two points (one goal, one assist) captaining the United States to a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and had four goals in five games to help the United States win silver at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Amanda Kessel, sister of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel, was named to the team for the second straight Olympics.

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