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Housley happy with first small-group practice

by Adam Kimelman

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The first single-squad practice for Team USA here at the National Junior Evaluation Camp lasted about an hour Tuesday, and was filled with what coach Phil Housley called "teaching moments."

After trimming the initial 45-player roster to 34 early Tuesday morning, Housley and his staff had the players on the ice for about an hour and used the time to continue to install the systems and style of play he wants to see from the team that eventually will head to Russia for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"I thought it went really well," he told "We're just trying to hammer in some of our system play still. They played three games in three days, mentally they're tired. We had a meeting at 7 a.m. to make the cut-down to the number we have right now, so we didn't really want to do anything very, very physical. Just wanted to incorporate some team concepts."

It wasn't always perfect, as Housley at one point stopped the drills and screamed at the players for about 10 seconds. After that, the crispness and speed went up, which is what the coach wanted.

"We talked about that before practice, that we didn't want to be out there long, but we wanted to get something accomplished," he said. "I understand they played three games in three days and they're tired. But if we worked at the things we wanted to accomplish we were going to get off early. I needed a little more urgency. They were a little down. It wasn't very long what we did, a lot of teaching moments. I'm glad they responded the way they did."

Team USA has off the rest of Tuesday then returns to play Finland on Wednesday. Housley wouldn't comment on what his lineup for the game will look like, but it's possible John Gibson will get the start in goal. Gibson, one of three returning players from last year's U.S. WJC team, played one game at last year's tournament -- a 23-save effort in a 4-1 loss to Finland.

All four goalies survived the initial cut -- Gibson, Jon Gillies, Garret Sparks and Anthony Stolarz. And with four games coming, all four could get one full game. However, Housley wasn't ready to commit to that plan.

"I'll leave it up to [goalie coach] Joe Exter," Housley said. "We'll have a conversation about. Certainly Gibson is going to see some work, and Sparks, and we'll see what happens after that point. We have to give our guys some work and see where they're at."

Other players who made the cut were the two youngest players at the camp -- defenseman Seth Jones and forward Ryan Hartman, both of whom are expected to be first-round picks at the 2013 NHL Draft.

Jones -- who had a spot on the 2012 WJC team until a shoulder injury in the final exhibition game sidelined him -- especially has been impressive.

"I realized why he was going to be on the team last year," Housley said.

At this early stage, Housley said he wasn't ready to start pointing out individual players. He said the 34 who remain in Lake Placid all have made positive impressions.

"These guys left an impression on us, that's why they're here," he said. "They earned it. That's not to say the guys we let go ... we're going to continue to track those players, [but] I'm really focused on the guys that are here. They certainly left an impression on our coaching staff and evaluation staff, [and] we're rewarding them."

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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