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2014 Sochi Olympics Men’s Hockey Preview, Part One: Tough Road to Medal for U.S.

February 10th, 2014 at 11:15 AM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101

Having come so close to winning gold four years ago in Vancouver, the U.S. men's Olympic hockey team seeks to find that one last push to propel it up one spot on the medal stand this month in Sochi.

That team rode Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller to silver, and lightning tends not to strike twice – especially with the defending gold medalists from Canada, a stacked Swedish squad and a motivated home team in Russia in the mix.

'Men's Gold Medal: Canada vs. USA' photo (c) 2010, s.yume - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

The Americans, just as they did four years ago, won't bring the flashiest offense to the Olympic tournament. But they will bring experience – 12 Team USA members are returning medalists – and a sound two-way to the games. Coach Dan Bylsma has yet to announce whether Miller or Jonathan Quick will be his No. 1 goalie, but both figure to see some playing time, and neither would be a bad choice.

Zach Parise will captain the U.S. team and serve as one of its top forwards, along with Buffalo native Patrick Kane (27 goals, 36 assists in 59 NHL games this season) and Joe Pavelski (29 goals, 25 assists in 59 NHL games). Phil Kessel (31 goals, 34 assists in 60 NHL games) and David Backes (20 goals, 22 assists in 52 NHL games) will complement the offense.

Ryan Suter will lead a defensive corps. He and Buffalo-area native Brooks Orpik will make up the likely top pairing. Out from 2010 are Jack Johnson and Keith Yandle. In are the unproven Cam Fowler and Paul Martin, who might have trouble stifling the likes of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

And that's where the goaltending will come in. Only if Quick and Miller – and Jimmy Howard, in an emergency – come through will the United States stand a shot at repeating their medal performance. Because, while the United States may be able to keep pace offensively to a point, the defense is sure to give up many more chances than it prevents.

Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL, Olympics, Ryan Miller, Ryan Suter, Sochi, U.S., United States, Zach Parise

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