Orpik, Martin make Team USA
A pair of Penguins defensemen will try to shut it down for Team USA at the Olympics.
Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin were announced Wednesday as members of the U.S. men's ice hockey team for next month's Winter Games. Team USA was unveiled on NBC after the broadcast of the Winter Classic outdoor game between Detroit and Toronto at Michigan Stadium.
USA Hockey did not allow its Olympics coach, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, to publicly comment on roster selections.
However, Bylsma said over the weekend that he has known the identity of Team USA players since Christmas Eve, and he already had started preparing for the Olympic tournament.
Bylsma seeks to lead Team USA to its first Olympic men's ice hockey gold medal since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” squad won in Lake Placid, N.Y. He has favored taking Orpik and Martin to Sochi, Russia, since he was named the U.S. coach in the summer.
Both players have represented the U.S. at previous Olympics.
“I will take time to appreciate it a little bit more,” said Orpik, who will play in his second consecutive Olympics. “You're pretty much in awe the first time, and it's over before you know it.
“Your bucket list as a player is always changing. Ask me five years ago, and I would have told you I wanted to be in contention to play in the Olympics. I'd like to win more Stanley Cups, obviously; but in terms of everything, yeah, the gold medal is the one thing that's left.”
Orpik, 33, and Martin, 32, have formed the Penguins' top defensive duo — often described by Bylsma as “our shutdown pairing” — the past two seasons, though both recently have missed time because of injuries.
Orpik has played in three consecutive games after missing eight in a row because of concussion symptoms. Martin (broken tibia) will miss a 17th consecutive game Friday night when the Penguins play the New York Rangers at Consol Energy Center. Martin has not resumed skating and is scheduled to be re-evaluated by Penguins doctors next week, Bylsma said Tuesday.
The NHL shuts down for the Olympic tournament. The Penguins' last game before the break is Feb. 7, also against the Rangers at home. Team USA opens the Olympics against Slovakia on Feb. 13.
A showdown with traditional power Russia is scheduled for Feb. 15. Bylsma could deploy Orpik and Martin against a line that features Alex Ovechkin, against whom the Penguins' shutdown pairing regularly is matched against the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin, the NHL leader with 30 goals, was held without a goal and limited to two shots by the Orpik-Martin pairing in the Penguins' win Nov. 20 at Washington.
Bylsma also could match Orpik and Martin against the Russian all three of them know best: Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, who is not projected to play on the same line with Ovechkin at the Olympics.
Martin would not mind matching up against a Canadian line that could feature Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, and potentially, wingers Chris Kunitz and James Neal in an Olympic semifinal or gold-medal game, either.
Orpik played, but Martin was injured — and thus replaced on the American roster — for the 2010 Vancouver Games. Martin was a member of Team USA at the 2006 Winter Games but did not play a game.
Martin said he “will be healthy” this time around.
“After hearing ‘from Elk River, Minn.,' I definitely got emotional,” Martin said of the live announcement of players at Michigan Stadium. “I know how much this means to me and am thankful for the opportunity. I'm pumped! I will be healthy and ready to go.”
Olympic rosters are set at 25 players.
Hockey Canada will unveil its roster Tuesday. Crosby is expected to be captain of the squad. He was an alternate captain at the Vancouver Games. Kunitz and Neal also are candidates to play for Canada.
Malkin, if healthy, is a lock for Team Russia. Penguins rookie Olli Maatta is in consideration to play for a Finland squad that is not strong on defense. Pens winger Jussi Jokinen is projected to play for Finland.