Seth Jones

Burning questions as USA Hockey decides men’s Olympic roster

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It appears the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team will not include any players with multiple Olympics under their belt for the first time since NHLers were allowed into the Winter Games in 1998.

The 2010 roster, dubbed young and somewhat inexperienced, surprised by winning a silver medal. It beat Canada in preliminary play and nearly did it again in the gold-medal game, falling on Sidney Crosby‘s overtime goal.

The Sochi team is expected to bring back the stars from 2010 — including tournament all-stars goalie Ryan Miller and forward Zach Parise — among as many as 17 players from the 25-man roster (plus two injury replacements) in Vancouver.

The entire squad will be announced at the conclusion of the Winter Classic between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings at The Big House in Ann, Arbor, Mich., on New Year’s Day.

Here are three burning questions going into the announcement:

1. Who will be the No. 3 goalie?

It “looked good” to be Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, according to a report Sunday citing an unnamed person with “knowledge of the selection process.”

That isn’t concrete at all but must be noted. Howard is thought to be in the running for the spot with the Lightning’s Ben Bishop and the Devils’ Cory Schneider. He was expected to return to game action Monday after not playing since Dec. 10 due to a knee injury.

2010 Olympic goalies Jonathan Quick and Miller are expected to be the top two, in some order. The third goalie from the 2010 Olympic team, Tim Thomas, is considered a longshot at age 39.

Bishop is the hot hand choice. He leads all American NHL goalies in goals-against average and save percentage this season and was the backup to John Gibson on the 2013 World Championships team that won bronze.

Howard started at the 2012 World Championships, where the U.S. was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Bishop or Schneider, both 27, would also be preferable to Howard, 29, if age plays a factor. A third goalie usually only sees time in the case of disastrous showings and is a good use of a roster spot for a player to get the “Olympic experience.”

Quick was the third goalie in 2010 at age 24.

2. Do promising teens Seth Jones and Alex Galchenyuk have a shot?

The outlook is not good for either. Jones or Galchenyuk, both 19, would be the youngest U.S. Olympic men’s hockey players since 1992.

Jones, the Predators defenseman and son of retired NBA player Popeye Jones, has seen his ice time dip from 25 minutes per game in October to 22 minutes in November and 15 in December. Keep in mind, though, that Jones plays for U.S. Olympic general manager David Poile in Nashville.

Galchenyuk, the Canadiens forward and son of a 1998 Belarusian Olympic hockey player, scored 10 goals with 12 assists in his first 40 games this season. The 22 points ranked third on the Canadiens despite playing 15 minutes per game.

His statistics give him a better chance than Jones, but the U.S. has plenty of experienced and capable forwards at its disposal. It might simply be a case of not enough room for the young Galchenyuk.

3. Who else is on the roster bubble?

The U.S. is expected to go with 14 forwards and eight defensemen with the former presenting a clearer picture two days before the roster announcement.

It would be surprising to see any of these nine forwards from the 2010 Olympic team not make the cut — David BackesDustin BrownPatrick KaneRyan Kesler, Phil KesselZach PariseJoe PavelskiBobby Ryan and Paul Stastny

Another 2010 Olympian, Ryan Callahan, is a little bit of a question mark with an MCL sprain that’s kept him out since Dec. 10. He’s hopeful of a mid-January return.

T.J. OshieMax Pacioretty and James van Riemsdyk are the leading newcomers. The real questions come from other would-be rookie Olympians, a list that includes but is not limited to Kyle OkposoBrandon SaadDerek Stepan and Blake Wheeler

Questions abound on defense, where perhaps only Ryan McDonaghKevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Suter are safe selections at this point.

How valuable is Dustin Byfuglien‘s versatility? What is the importance of Jack Johnson‘s experience with USA Hockey? What about Paul Martin (out since Nov. 25 with a fractured tibia) and Brooks Orpik (back after missing three weeks with a concussion), who play for U.S. Olympic coach Dan Bylsma on the Penguins?

No matter the roster, perhaps only Canada will have greater overall talent than the U.S. Hockey Canada will announce its team on Jan. 7.

Russia suicide bombings will not affect Sochi Olympic security

Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey

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As sports organizations and notable hockey figures express support of the U.S. women’s team, several players say they rejected overtures from USA Hockey to serve as replacements for the upcoming world championships.

Two players told The Associated Press on Friday that USA Hockey reached out to them to gauge their interest for the worlds, which begin next week in Plymouth, Michigan.

Brittany Ott, a goaltender for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, and Annie Pankowski, a junior forward at the University of Wisconsin, said the email from USA Hockey was not an invitation but rather an inquiry about their availability.

“I responded to that email and I said I’m not willing,” Pankowski said.

A third player, goalie Lauren Dahm, told the AP on Saturday she also turned down an invitation. Dahm plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Boston Blades.

The U.S. team has said it plans to boycott the worlds over a wage dispute with USA Hockey, which confirmed Thursday it would begin reaching out to potential replacement players. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

“From a personal standpoint I have never been invited to a USA Hockey series or camp or anything like that and I would honestly love to be invited to something like that,” Ott said by phone. “However at the current time, this is a fight that I believe in and I’m definitely going to stand up and help fight as much as I can.”

Many players posted a version of a Jerry Rice quote on Twitter on Friday: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC.” Not all players who tweeted that message were asked by USA Hockey if they could play.

On Saturday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the chorus of support for the players, saying on Twitter the organization stands behind their pursuit of fairness and equality.

“These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers,” Smith tweeted. “Of course, they have the NFLPA’s support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol posted his support on Twitter, calling players competitors and role models.

On Friday, the NHL Players’ Association and Major League Baseball players posted messages of support. The NHLPA posted on Twitter that it supports players and panned USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements, adding that the decision “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

The MLBPA encouraged all female hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period. The sides met for 10-plus hours Monday, but players have called USA Hockey’s counterproposal “disappointing.”

USA Hockey said Thursday its priority was to have all the players selected for the national team on the ice March 31 when the tournament begins. But the organization added that it informed players’ representatives it would begin reaching out to potential replacements with the tournament coming up.

Star national team forward Hilary Knight said last week she wished USA Hockey luck putting together a suitable team of replacements to defend the gold medal because the player pool was united in the dispute. Ott and Pankowski said they had not heard from any players expressing a willingness to play in worlds.

“It’s a very unified front,” Ott said. “It’s a tight-knit community that we have in women’s hockey here. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow. We’re all standing together.”

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World Figure Skating Championships pairs preview

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Volosozhar and Trankov couldn’t do it. Neither did Shen and Zhao. Nor Gordeeva and Grinkov.

Canadians Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford can win a third straight pairs world title next week, a feat not seen since Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev of the Soviet Union won six in a row from 1973 through 1978.

But they don’t feel like favorites.

“We’re coming in a little more under the radar,” Radford said.

They lost their two most recent international competitions — third at the Grand Prix Final in December; second at the Four Continents Championships in February.

Duhamel and Radford are seeded fifth by best international scores this season going into the world championships in Helsinki (broadcast schedule here).

“Sometimes it feels like worlds last year was so long ago,” Radford said.

Last year in Boston, Duhamel and Radford had the performance of their seven-year partnership in the world championships free skate. They tallied a personal-best 153.81 points, more than seven points clear of their previous best.

It was easily enough to overtake Chinese short-program leaders Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who were relegated to silver behind the Canadians for a second straight year.

This season, Duhamel and Radford haven’t come within 13 points of their 2016 World Championships total. Duhamel went through “an unforeseeable circumstance” in her personal life in November that she chooses not to reveal.

They implemented the throw triple Axel, but Duhamel fell three times in a four-event stretch this fall. They lost by nearly 13 points at December’s Grand Prix Final, which ended with a Duhamel backstage meltdown.

“We never fell like that at home [in practice],” Duhamel said on the IceTalk podcast. “It started to shake us up a little bit.”

They replaced the throw triple Axel in their program. Without it in February, both skaters had trouble with jumps at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue and finished nearly 13 points behind Sui and Han.

“We kind of went back to square one, to the drawing board after Four Continents, reassessing what’s gone on this season, why are we underperforming, why are we not succeeding in competition the way we are training,” Duhamel said.

They made program changes, notably on their throw and jump entrances and overhauling the footwork in their short program.

Duhamel adopted a rescue dog from South Korea. Radford, who had surgery over the summer to remove a cyst from his ankle bone, leaned on a sports psychologist.

“I personally feel a lot more relaxed and seemless,” Radford said. “That feeling has come a little bit later this season.”

Five pairs could take gold in Helsinki in perhaps the most wide-open event.

Germans Aliona Savchenko and (French-born) Bruno Massot won both of their fall Grand Prix events but missed the Grand Prix Final after she tore an ankle ligament. They returned to take silver at the European Championships in January with the best score of their two-year partnership.

Young Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov stepped up to win the Grand Prix Final, the second-biggest annual competition, and then the European Championships. But free-skate struggles have dogged them this season.

Another Russian pair, Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, are perhaps the biggest wild card. They missed the fall season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury, but then beat Tarasova and Morozov in their season debut at the Russian Championships. Stolbova fell on their throw triple flip in both programs at the European Championships in January, and they finished fourth.

Then there are Sui and Han, looking to break through for a first senior world title in their sixth try (though Sui is just 21 years old, and Han 24). They missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at Four Continents and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

U.S. pairs Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim and Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier have both missed significant time due to injury in the last two years. They are behind the top pairs from Canada, China and Russia.

The U.S. hasn’t put a pair in the world championships top five since 2006, and that doesn’t figure to change next week.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.