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Final U.S. cuts won't be easy for Housley

by Adam Kimelman

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- With just 26 players left in camp and a need to get the roster down to 23 prior to the start of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, coach Phil Housley said the job of deciding who stays and who goes home isn't getting any easier.

Stefan Noesen was released from the team after being ruled ineligible for the tournament because of his 10-game OHL suspension, so only three more players need to be cut. However, the players are doing a nice job making those final decisions extremely difficult.

"I'm disappointed to see Noesen go with his situation," Housley said. "Certainly he would have been a part of our team. I think he's a big-time player. Even with that situation, it's going to be very hard -- especially on the back end."

Housley said the biggest part of discussions he will have with the rest of the USA Hockey staff is figuring how each player fits a necessary role.

"I think it's what role that we're going to find the players to fulfill," he said. "It's tough to be on the ice as a coach. You can watch but you can't really get a good sense of evaluating until you talk to the whole staff and see what their point of view is and where they're coming from. Those decisions are going to be tough. It's the role and where they fit into that role."

The two practice sessions were more up-tempo than the practice Sunday, as most of the players arrived in New York only hours before camp opened. The afternoon session saw things get even more physical with a 3-on-3 game played across the width of the ice. Bodies were banging around often.

"Today with both sessions we had was just great," Housley said. "The jump they had, the things that we're focusing on right now, they're understanding it more as we review our concepts. I think overall the competitive level that we saw in the small games at the end provided some very high compete, and it's fun at the same time."

The players also enjoyed the physical play at the end.

"Everyone has to get a feel for each other," Seth Jones said. "Today we played a little 3-on-3 game at the end. It was really competitive, really physical. People are battling for spots and no one's going to take anyone lightly."

Another player who was dialed into the practice was J.T. Miller, who has emerged as a team leader and could be the front-runner to be named team captain.

"Since we've been here he's put his foot down and really extended himself in that leadership role, which is good to see," Housley said. "It's the little things away from the rink that you don't see, which is great for me, to get the guys together. They're all on one page and that's great. You're going to need leaders, to get guys to say the right things in the locker room when the coach isn't there. … It's a sign of his maturity as a player. He's a guy that's playing in the American league at a very young age. There's not a lot of guys that can say that. He's a strong young man. It's great to see him lead by example. He competes out there. That's what we're going to need form our leaders, leading by example."

Heading into the final session of camp Tuesday, Housley said he's extremely happy with what he's seen so far.

"It's been great," he said. "The enthusiasm on the ice, the competitive battles -- it's everything we're looking for. Seems like these guys are coming together in a short period of time. I thought in Lake Placid they made strides toward creating that bond. Now it's really a joy to see these guys on the ice come together."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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