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Housley ready for first look at trimmed-down team

by Adam Kimelman

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The U.S. will play its first game Wednesday since trimming the initial 45-player roster to 34, and coach Phil Housley said he's looking forward to seeing how the 22 players who suit up against Finland fare in game competition.

It's the first of three games the U.S. will play this week -- they'll play Sweden on Thursday and have a re-match with Finland to close the camp Saturday.

"We're just trying to get every look we can right now because we only have three games left," Housley told "We're going to try to use those three games to evaluate the guys."

Among the players he'll be watching are his goalies, John Gibson and Garret Sparks. Housley said Gibson will start, but he was unsure if he would play the whole game or split time with Sparks.

Gibson, who was the backup on last year's World Junior team, played just one game in Alberta -- coincidentally, it was against Finland. However, Housley said that had nothing to do with Gibson getting the start today.

"Last year was last year," he said. "This is a new, fresh year. We're going in to give him some work. Both our [1993-born] goalies are solid as well as our '94s. We're going to give those guys … everybody is going to be playing."

One of the top lines could be the trio of Sean Kuraly centering Mario Lucia and Stefan Noesen. That trio combined for four goals and three assists against Finland in a split-squad game Monday.

While their offensive output was nice, Housley said he liked what the trio did besides scoring.

"I thought they played terrific away from the puck," he told "A lot of their chances came off good defensive plays that had back pressure, or making the nice little play on the wall and following up the play. Especially the third goal, Lucia makes a nice play on the wall, gets up the ice, beats his man and gets an odd-numbered situation. Those types of things are great. Our play away from the puck is going to be stressed, it's going to be important."

Another interesting trio could be the line of Alex Galchenyuk with John Gaudreau and J.T. Miller. Galchenyuk and Gaudreau have flashy offensive skills, and Miller will have a chance to bring some power to that line.

"I think he [Galchenyuk] is getting more comfortable as the week goes on," Housley said. "Gaudreau, these are guys that have to think alike and hopefully J.T. can add to that line."

We had a look at the lineup earlier here. After playing games the last two days, including Tuesday's 8-2 loss to Sweden, Finland opted not to skate Wednesday morning, so their lineup won't be announced until later.

The puck drops at 4 p.m. ET.

Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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