The feeling of emptiness that the United States players brought back with them from the 2014 Sochi Olympics still lingers.
Putting on the USA jersey again at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 will give them a chance to erase it.
Team USA will feature a number of players from the core group from Sochi, and those players view the World Cup, which begins Sept. 17 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, as possibly their last opportunity to redeem themselves before a younger group of U.S.-born players takes over whenever the next best-on-best tournament is played. It's a challenge they are embracing.
"It's a great opportunity for that group in Sochi that we had," New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "We have a lot of the same guys representing the U.S. that kind of get a chance to get back on the right side of things."
Of the 23 players on the Team USA roster who will open training camp at Nationwide Arena in Columbus on Monday, 14 played in Sochi. There are nine players remaining from the team that lost to Canada in overtime of the gold-medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The U.S. players had gone to Sochi on a mission to complete their unfinished business from four years earlier and won their first four games. Then they came up short in their rematch with Canada in the semifinals, losing 1-0, and fell flat in a 5-0 loss to Finland in the bronze-medal game.
Instead of turning their silver medal from 2010 into gold, they came home with nothing but regret.
"It was a letdown," Washington Capitals right wing T.J. Oshie said. "It would have been amazing to get a medal, but I think overall we had our eye on gold, and it almost felt like it was gold or bust for us."
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Although the U.S. didn't get its desired result, there was no shame in losing to Canada, which went on to win its second consecutive Olympic gold medal by defeating Sweden 3-0. What sticks with some of the U.S. players is how they unraveled in the lopsided loss to Finland when they still had an opportunity for a medal.
"I thought Canada really played well against us," said Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise, who was captain of the 2014 team. "We really didn't get much offensively. They locked it down pretty good on us and they had good players. You're going to look at their roster 15 years from now and be like, 'Oh my gosh! All these guys were on the same team together?' The ending in Russia with a 5-0 pretty good waxing was tough. Had we gone home after a 1-0 loss to Canada, of course that would have been brutal, but we finished with a kind of disappointing game, and that's what everyone remembers."
The World Cup is a different tournament with some different teams, but it will give the Team USA players another chance against the world's best to prove they are better than what they showed in Sochi. Parise said there's no guarantee they will win the tournament, but they feel good about the team they have.
In constructing it, general manager Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings and coach John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets seemed intent on supplementing the Sochi returnees with players who play with a physical edge, such as Detroit Red Wings forward Justin Abdelkader and the Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky.
Team USA also won't lack leadership; six players are or have been an NHL captain.
"It's a great group of guys we have going there," Toronto Maple Leafs left wing James van Riemsdyk said. "It's great that you see the way USA Hockey has gone over the years that now you go into these tournaments every time expecting to bring home a gold medal. Obviously, there's a lot of teams there, so we're going to have our work cut out for us. But we're really excited for the opportunity."
With a new coaching staff, having players who are familiar with each other from Sochi could be helpful. The teams have more time to practice together than they did before the Olympics but will have less than two weeks to get ready for games that will count.
Team USA, which plays its World Cup preliminary round opener against Team Europe on Sept. 17 (3:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports), gathered its players and staff in July to get a head start on team-building and stressed the importance of coming together quickly.
"With USA Hockey, a lot of us have played together at some point growing up," Oshie said. "I think there's already a team feeling with us just because of how much we have played together and the downs we went through in Sochi and the ups. We got together once this summer and had a little bonding thing, so we're excited. I'm excited to see the chemistry."
Chemistry and the motivation to write a better ending than the U.S. had in Sochi can carry Team USA only so far. Against the high talent level it will face in the World Cup, it can't afford any letdowns to have a chance to reach the best-of-3 final and win it.
"The only way you can fix it is to work harder and get better and get another crack," Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. "Only one team gets to win, so everybody else [in Sochi] was feeling pretty badly for themselves too. So we're going to go out there and leave it all on the line."