Team USA will first take to the Olympic ice on Feb. 13 against Slovakia, before facing Russia (Feb. 15) and Slovenia (Feb. 16) in the preliminary round.
But assistant coach Tony Granato is already plotting against another opponent.
“We’re going to be playing against (the Penguins’ Sidney) Crosby, (the Islanders’ John) Tavares; no matter who their third-line center is those are three elite lines,” Granato pointed out. “You have to make sure your guys on the ice can compete against them, play against them and play a good two-way game against them, so I think that was part of the design of the team as well.”
It was pointed out to Granato, an assistant coach with the Penguins, that Team USA isn’t as yet scheduled to face Canada in the Winter Games.
“I know that,” he said. “But I know if we’re going to get to where we want to get to we’re going to have to go through Canada.”
Following are a few subsequent thoughts and observations from Team USA on Team USA and its chances in Sochi, Russia:
WASHINGTON CAPITALS D JOHN CARLSON
(On losing the gold medal to Canada in overtime in Vancouver in 2010): “That’s a good motivator for our team. A bunch of those guys are on the team again and they know what it takes to get there.”
(On the strength of Team USA): “I think we have a bunch of great players. There are all types of players on the team. We’re certainly a very fast team and can move the puck up the ice well, that’s what will be our strength.”
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS D PAUL MARTIN
(On the key to success for Team USA): “When you throw a lot of good players like that into the Olympics they’re all top players on their team. It’ll still come down to what role they’re going to be in and accepting that role. We’re going to have a big team, a fast team, a good defensive team and the goaltending’s always big, we have great goaltenders. It should be interesting to see what happens.”
(On the favorite to win gold): “It’s usually the same teams up top vying for that goal medal, Russia, Canada, the Swedes. If we went in without thinking that we were going to win that would be wrong. What they did in Vancouver and the group of guys that we have, we’re going in to win a gold medal. It’s such a short tournament, anything can happen.”
NEW YORK RANGERS D RYAN McDONAGH
(On the strength of Team USA): “Obviously, it’s a tremendous roster looking at it on paper. It’s got all the components you want on a team, size, speed, skill. I’m honored to be a part of it.
“Experience is obviously the first thing, up front, on the back end and the goalies. I think that’s the first thing that jumps out at me, a lot of guys returning. They had a good run last time with a similar group. Hopefully, we can take the next step and accomplish the ultimate goal.”
NEW YORK RANGERS RW RYAN CALLAHAN
(On the strength of Team USA): “You go right through the lineup there are a lot of skilled players, a lot of fast players which I think will be good on the big ice. We’re going to be a quick team and that’s going to serve us well.”
(On potential line combinations, defense pairings): “We have a pretty good idea on all that stuff. Compatibility, playing in the same organization now is something that’s important. Also, in previous world championships and Olympics there are guys that have had experience playing together that has gone well.
“When you put together 25 guys that aren’t familiar with each other you want to get as much familiarity as you can. You look at the (T.J.) Oshie-(David) Backes pair (from St. Louis), you look at the Martin-(Brooks) Orpik pair (from the Penguins), Callahan-(Derek) Stepan (from the New York Rangers); we have a few guys that have played together and in previous Olympics. (Phil) Kessel-(James) van Riemsdyk (from Toronto), we have a few people in place that probably will see a lot of ice time together.”
(On the strength of Team USA): “I think the lineup, from top to bottom, is hard to play against. I think we’re a good two-way team. I think we’re a very responsible team without the puck. We have some dynamic offensive players, obviously, that can put the puck in the net but I think we’re a very solid two-way team.”
(On Team USA’s “X-factor”): “The depth, the guys that will step forward all throughout all four lines. All four lines are going to play a significant part of the tournament. When you have to play six games to win a medal in a short period of time you’re going to have to rely on your depth. The blueline depth, I think we skate real well at the blueline. We have some young players that move the puck really well. I think that’ll be a big part of our offense.”