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Parise named captain of U.S. Olympic team

by Adam Kimelman

Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise on Friday was named captain of the United States team for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Parise helped the U.S. win the silver medal four years ago in Vancouver, tying for the team lead with four goals and eight points. His goal in the final minute of the third period against Canada in the gold-medal game forced overtime.

"It's a special thing to be named captain of any team," Parise said during a conference call. "When it's a national team, when it's an Olympic team, it's extra special."

Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter and Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown were named alternate captains.

Parise recently returned to the Wild lineup after missing a month with a foot injury. He had the game-winning goal and two assists Tuesday in a 4-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks and had two goals and two assists Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche. For the season he has 18 goals and 16 assists in 41 games.

He also has previous experience as a captain. In 2011-12 he wore the 'C' for the New Jersey Devils as that team reached the Stanley Cup Final. He has been an alternate captain in his two seasons with the Wild.

"We think we're a hard team to play against," United States coach Dan Bylsma said. "We think we're a team that has a blue-collar mentality. Zach embodies that. Zach is that as a player, he is that as a person. That's why Zach Parise."

Parise was one of five players named by USA Hockey in July to the team's leadership group, along with Suter, Brown, St. Louis Blues forward David Backes and New York Rangers forward Ryan Callahan. All five played on the 2010 team; Brown, Backes and Callahan are captains of their NHL teams, while Parise and Suter have been alternate captains in their two seasons with the Wild.

U.S. general manager David Poile said after the management group determined those five players would form the leadership group he left it to Bylsma and his staff to pick the captain. Bylsma said what moved Parise to the top of the list was a work ethic he saw first-hand during the numerous times he coached against Parise during Atlantic Division games when Parise's Devils played Bylsma's Pittsburgh Penguins.

"Every time we played against Zach Parise there has been a work ethic that never quits, a determination, an abrasiveness, being hard to play against. And it's every time. It's every time regardless of the score or the situation or regardless of the situation the respective teams might be in. That's what you see and that's what you get every time I've ever coached against Zach Parise. You flip on the television and you see it in every game he plays in. Every time he brings it. That's exactly how we want our team to play."

Parise said being close to Jamie Langenbrunner, who captained the U.S. team in Vancouver and also was Devils captain from 2008-11, will help him in his role in Sochi.

"Jamie is the type of guy that he's not an overly vocal guy in the locker room but you know he's going to play hard and play the right way every game," Parise said. "He leads by example. … What was unique about Jamie was that … as a captain he was able to lead the same way when the team was winning as when the team was losing, and that's a hard thing. Jamie was always good at that. That's the sign of a really good captain."

Suter, who was an alternate captain on the 2010 team, also is in his second season as an alternate captain with the Wild. He had four assists and a plus-2 rating four years ago in Vancouver. He has 33 points in 56 games and averages a League-high 29:39 of ice time per game.

Brown also was an alternate captain four years ago in Vancouver. He is in his sixth season as captain of the Kings and also has captained the U.S. in international play, at the 2009 IIHF World Championship. In 55 games this season Brown has 10 goals and six assists.

"When it comes to captain and leadership you're looking for players and people that embody who you are, how you want to play, and they have to be examples both on and off the ice," Bylsma said. "I can't think of a better group, can't think of a better captain than Zach Parise to lead our team and be our captain."

The U.S. will be in Group A in preliminary-round play, and opens the Olympic tournament Feb. 13 against Slovakia.


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