U.S. roster has rebuilt defense
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The U.S. team that will look to avenge a loss in the Olympic final four years ago will feature an almost entirely remade defensive corps but lots of familiar faces among the forward group and in goal.
The roster, announced Wednesday following the Winter Classic outdoor game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, features 13 players who were on the team that lost in the 2010 gold-medal game to Canada in overtime.
However, a handful of familiar names not on the 25-man roster will no doubt spark significant debate leading up to the Sochi Games, which begin in a little more than a month.
High-scoring Ottawa Senators winger Bobby Ryan and Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson, a fixture on U.S. international teams dating to his teens, were both left off the U.S. roster, as other players saw their stock rise significantly during the first half of the NHL season.
"We did not pick the 25 best players," general manager David Poile said. "We picked the 25 players we thought gave us a chance to win the gold medal."
Howard's selection also will spark debate, as he has played poorly for the Red Wings this season and has recently returned from a knee injury.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is having a far superior season, but the selection committee (Poile, Ray Shero, Brian Burke, Stan Bowman, Dean Lombardi, Paul Holmgren, Dale Tallon, Jim Johannson and Don Waddell) believed his lack of NHL playoff experience and poor play at the World Championships were red flags. Howard also has significantly more playoff experience than New Jersey Devils' netminder Cory Schneider, the other serious candidate to make the team.
Along the blue line, only the Pittsburgh Penguins' Brooks Orpik, also returning from injury, and Minnesota Wild workhorse Ryan Suter return from the 2010 team, as the selection committee went with a younger, more mobile group on defense.
That unit includes Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers, Orpik's teammate and defense partner Paul Martin, Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes, Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks, Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues and John Carlson of the Washington Capitals.
Fowler's impressive play and Carlson's surge were contributing factors in Johnson being left off the team.
The forward group is battle-tested at this level, with Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, David Backes, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Paul Stastny and Joe Pavelski all returning from the 2010 team.
The health of the team will continue to be a story as the Olympics approach, given the number of players currently injured or coming off serious injuries.
Among those recovering from injury are Quick, Howard and Orpik, while Martin, Callahan and Parise are all out of their respective lineups. Backes was out with an upper-body injury, returned and was injured in Saturday's game against Chicago. His immediate status is unknown.
All are expected to return in time for the start of the Olympics. The Americans play their first game Feb. 13, against Slovakia.
According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, member nations can replace players due to injury or special circumstance (such as a family emergency) up to two hours before the first game of the tournament, which is Feb. 12.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.