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Wilson: U.S. doesn't need a miracle

by Todd Kimberley

"We don't need a miracle. Any one of a number of countries could win. In these tournaments, the team with the best goaltender usually wins." -- Ron Wilson

CALGARY -- In six weeks' time, when the cauldron is lit in Vancouver, Team USA will ice the youngest men's hockey team since the NHL started sending its players to the Olympics in 1998.

Only three of 23 players on the Stars and Stripes roster have previous Winter Games experience.

Ron Wilson's take on all of this? Victory would hardly be miraculous for the long-shot Americans.

"We don't need a miracle," said Wilson, the 2010 Team USA coach, in Calgary on Friday as the American roster for Vancouver was unveiled in Boston. "Any one of a number of countries could win. In these tournaments, the team with the best goaltender usually wins.

"At the moment, the U.S. has the best goalie in the NHL in Ryan Miller. If he keeps playing the way he has, we have a pretty good chance of winning a gold medal."

Yes, Wilson and Team USA general manager Brian Burke — who both operate out of Toronto, holding identical roles with the Leafs — did look to one of the team's rivals, the Buffalo Sabres, to pluck Miller, 29, of East Lansing, Mich., as the American starter.

But they did also look internally for talent, choosing sleek forward Phil Kessel, 22, of Madison, Wisc., and hulking defenseman Mike Komisarek, 27, of West Islip, N.Y.

"I'm not going there just to be part of the event and participate," Komisarek, the 6-foot-4, 240-pounder, told the Toronto Sun. "In a short tournament, you can ride a hot goalie or a hot line right to the gold-medal game. You want to go there for one reason, and that's to win gold.

"As an athlete, it's the ultimate to have the opportunity to represent your country on the Olympic stage. It's an honor and a privilege."

Kessel, who scored 36 goals with the Boston Bruins last winter, knows the 1980 Miracle on Ice tale chapter and verse — he was coached from age seven through to his mid-teens by Bob Suter, a member of the Lake Placid golden boys in 1980 whom he has credited with turning him into an NHLer.

"I think it grew (hockey in the U.S.) a lot," Kessel, also speaking to the Toronto Sun, said of the famous storybook upset. "It was a pretty big thing for the United States to win; it will always be remembered.

"We've got a lot of young guys, but we've got a lot of skilled guys."

Komisarek and Kessel were both expected to make the U.S. roster. For Komisarek, it was just a matter of adjustment after coming over from the Montreal Canadiens as a big free-agent signing in the summer.

Kessel, meanwhile, did not return until Nov. 3 from rotator cuff surgery, after reaching a summer contract impasse in Boston and arriving in Toronto via a September trade.

"There was a lot of debate over Mike, especially the way he started," Wilson told reporters. "But that's all settled down now. He's played really well over the last month."

As for Kessel, who has 14 goals in 29 games with the Leafs, it was a rather-easy decision.

"After a couple of weeks, he was basically a no-brainer," said Wilson.

Wilson coached the U.S. entry at the Nagano Olympics, and led the Americans to victory at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

"To have another chance to represent the U.S. in the biggest showcase of all ... it's going to be a lot of fun," he said.

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