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Olympic rivals Kesler, Luongo are teammates again

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NEW YORK (AP) -Ryan Kesler is proud of the silver medal he and the upstart Americans won at the Vancouver Olympics, but don't ask to see it. Kesler's prize isn't making the rounds the way Vancouver Canucks teammate Roberto Luongo is toting around his gold.

"My silver medal is in Michigan, and his is in his pocket at all times," Kesler said Monday. "I'm proud of him. He's a great goaltender and he won a gold for his country."

Kesler, a two-way forward who scored on Luongo during the Americans' 3-2 overtime loss in the gold-medal game, has gone from no-name hockey player to newfound celebrity.

Some comments Kesler made about Canada and Luongo's perceived shakiness during the gold-medal game made Kesler a bit of a villain in his hockey home. He downplayed any rift with Luongo now that they are back as teammates and trying to hold onto first place in the Northwest Division.

He insists all is well with him and Luongo and Canada and the city of Vancouver. Several teammates have also come to the defense of the noted on-ice agitator.

"That was overblown. It's one of those things where they're trying to make a story out of nothing," Kesler said. "Me and Roberto are good, good friends. For me, there is no mending fences."

Kesler netted two goals in the six games the U.S. played at the Olympics. He's found out in a hurry what two solid two weeks on the international stage can do for a player's fame.

He spoke to The Associated Press by phone after being signed as the cover athlete and spokesman for the upcoming video game "NHL 2K11."

"It's a good thing if people know who you are when you play the game of hockey," he said. "If I didn't play the way I did during the Olympics, I don't think I would be a '2K' cover guy. I think that has a big thing to do with it."

The Olympics were particularly special for Kesler because they took place in Vancouver. He nearly left the Canucks after the 2005-06 season, his second with Vancouver, when he signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. He was quick to point out Monday that it was strictly a business deal and not a desire to skip town.

"I love Vancouver and I love playing in the city of Vancouver," Kesler said. "It's a great city, but playing in the same city your whole career probably isn't realistic. Would I like to play in an NHL city in the States? Obviously, I'd love to play close to home later on so my family can watch me play more and I can spend more time with them. At the same time, if I'm in Vancouver the rest of my career I will be extremely happy."

The Canucks have two games left on their 14-game road trip that bookended the Olympics. Vancouver has a two-point lead over Colorado, where the Canucks will make their next stop Tuesday night. They hope to finish strong, especially after Luongo allowed five first-period goals in a loss at Chicago on Friday.

"We had a very important game against Chicago where we thought it was a measuring stick," Kesler said. "We didn't like the way things ended."

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