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World Cup

John Tortorella wants Team USA to impose its will

Coach expects players to grind it out when necessary at World Cup

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Team USA coach John Tortorella wants an aggressive game that suits his personality, and more importantly, his preferred style of play at the World Cup of Hockey 2016.

"We're not looking to counterpunch," he said Monday after Team USA practiced for the first time, at Nationwide Arena. "We have a way we want to play and we're going to play that way.

"We're going to play our game and try and inflict and put our will into a game and go about it that way. It's not going to be a convoluted message in how we're going to play."

Team USA has skill, but critics point to forwards such as Justin Abdelkader (19 goals, 42 points for the Detroit Red Wings last season) and Brandon Dubinsky (17 goals, 48 points for the Blue Jackets), and see more grinders than game changers.

"We're going to try and do a little bit of everything," Dubinsky said. "I think we've got some grit. I think we've got some skill, speed. [Tortorella] wants to play a north-south game like he usually does. We'll be a good forechecking team and one that can score some goals too."

That remains to be seen, but Tortorella and his staff assembled a top line of Max Pacioretty, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Kane that combined for 114 goals last season. Kane won the Art Ross Trophy with 46 goals and 60 assists for 106 points with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The other lines have Derek Stepan centering Blake Wheeler and Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler between Abdelkader and T.J. Oshie, and Dubinsky with David Backes and either Kyle Palmieri or James van Riemsdyk.

On defense, Ryan McDonagh and John Carlson were together, Ryan Suter and Dustin Byfuglien were a pair, and Matt Niskanen had Erik Johnson or Jack Johnson next to him.

Tortorella has to choose among goaltenders Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick or Cory Schneider for the first pretournament game against Team Canada in Columbus on Friday (7 p.m. ET; ESPNU, SN, TVA Sports).

"With the strength of our goaltending, it allows us to take a few more chances along the way," Tortorella said.

Expect Tortorella to tinker with the lineup before the first preliminary round game against Team Europe at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sept. 17 (3:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports).
"Don't get married to that as far as what we had out there," Tortorella said. "We'll probably start that way the first exhibition game, but as we go through the next little while, although it's not a lot of time, there could be some changes.

"There's no scientific method in putting them together. We wanted to see some people. I wanted to see Pavelski and Kane together. Pacioretty's on the left side right now. The Backes line has an identity there as far as how they're going to play."

Backes said the expected ability to use four lines effectively is similar to when the United States won the silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

"It reminds me of the fourth line we had, which was myself, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury and you go, 'That group of guys is talented,'" he said. "They're first-, second-line guys on NHL teams. We were out there to provide energy, but we scored some goals at some key times and do all the little things."

Tortorella likes the versatility of Team USA.

"We want to play as quickly and as straight ahead as possible," he said. "We have the skill to make plays getting out of our end zone. We have some people that if we can't make a play, can get it back. We want to go north-south as quickly as possible and have some grind in our game when we need to.

"We can play different ways as needed within the game and game to game."

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