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Penguins' Granato to join Bylsma for Olympics

| Tuesday, July 23, 2013, 8:15 p.m.
Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato talks at lunch with Lakia Gardner, 8, of Carnegie, before helping her pick out some warm winter clothes at Dick's Sporting Goods in Cranberry on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. The charity event, part of the team's annual 'Project Bundle-Up' initiative that provides new winter clothes for children and seniors in need, is part of the team's charity plans for the season that has been affected by complications with the NHL lockout. Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
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Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato looks on against the Panthers on Feb. 22, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Penguins employees might have their own wing at the Olympic Village in Sochi.

Dan Bylsma, meanwhile, is bringing his wingman to Russia.

Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato, who comes from a decorated family of American athletes, was named to Bylsma's Olympic staff Tuesday.

“We have a fabulous staff,” said David Poile, the Nashville Predators' general manager who is serving the same role for Team USA.

Bylsma also will be joined behind the bench by Columbus coach Todd Richards and Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette.

“I really am excited,” Granato said. “Dan knew I was willing. I can't wait.”

Granato formerly was head coach for Colorado, meaning all four coaches on the American staff are current or former NHL coaches.

“It speaks volumes of how far American hockey has come on and off the ice,” Poile said.

There are plenty of connections within this group.

Richards is a former coach at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and has a good relationship with Bylsma. Bylsma served as a Baby Pens assistant under Richards from 2006 through '08 before becoming the team's head coach at the start of the 2008-09 season.

Laviolette participated in Granato's wedding, and they were teammates with the Rangers during the 1988-89 season. They nearly came to blows April 1, 2012, in a game at Consol Energy Center between the Penguins and Flyers.

Both since have laughed off the exchange.

“I knew the question was coming,” Granato said. “Everything with us is fine. We are going to work very well together.”

Penguins general manager Ray Shero, Poile's assistant for Team USA, said he believes the coaching staff's closeness will be helpful. He also thinks Granato is a quality addition.

“He's a student of the game,” Shero said.

“His communication skills, experience and familiarity with Dan, Peter and Todd will be a benefit in a short tournament like the Olympics.”

Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier also will be headed to Sochi to serve in the same capacity for Team USA.

Granato, an assistant with the Penguins since 2009, played for Team USA in the Olympics and represented his country in three world championships. Granato also participated in two junior world championships and the 1991 Canada Cup.

“Tony has a great deal of experience,” Shero said, “not only as an NHL coach and player, but also being a player on the 1988 Olympic team.”

His sister, Cammi Granato, is considered among the greatest women's players in American history and was captain when Team USA claimed gold at the 1998 games.

Tony Granato said the system used in the Olympics could be different than what the Penguins use.

“It will need to be something simple,” he said. “We think we can make it work.”

Poile spoke on other topics:

• The team's orientation camp in Arlington, Va., will not include on-ice workouts because of high insurance costs. “Honestly,” he said, “it's a ridiculous number.”

• On Richland native Brandon Saad being invited to the team's orientation camp: “I don't know if it's his time yet, but he's definitely a big part of our future.”

• On the importance of orientation camp: “No one made the team in 2010 because they showed up at the camp, nor were they eliminated.”

•On Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi not being invited to the orientation camp (Poile hinted that players not invited still might be considered): “We are trying to make a decision based on who is playing best between October and December.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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