Ken Klee
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Former NHL defenseman no longer coaching U.S. women’s hockey team

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Longtime NHL defenseman Ken Klee is out as the coach of the U.S. women’s hockey team after leading the Americans to gold medals at the last two world championships.

Who’s in?

The players are waiting to hear, less than a month before the world championship and less than a year before the Olympics in South Korea.

Klee is “not our coach right now,” star forward Hilary Knight told The Associated Press on Saturday. “I just know that it was a privilege to work with him.”

Knight declined to elaborate on the reasons the players were given for the change. Reagan Carey, the team’s general manager, did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. USA Hockey has been naming coaches for individual events, and former NHL goaltender Robb Stauber was the head coach for a pair of exhibitions against Canada in December.

“A lot of people have come and gone,” Knight said. “It definitely is different how they’re doing it now.”

Stauber has been involved with the women’s national team since 2010 and was the goaltenders coach for the team that won a silver medal at the Sochi Games in 2014. It is rare — but not unprecedented — for a goalie to serve as a head coach for a hockey team, with Hall of Famer Patrick Roy recently serving three years on the Colorado Avalanche bench.

Klee played for seven NHL teams during a 14-year career. Under his leadership, the U.S. women won two straight world championships and twice won the prestigious Four Nations Cup, most recently in November. But Stauber took over on the bench in December.

The roster for the world championship, including the coaching staff, has not yet been announced. They begin March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

Knight noted that Canada has twice changed coaches during the run-up to the Olympics, including just two months before the Sochi Games, when Dan Church resigned and was replaced by Kevin Dineen.

“We’ve got such a strong leadership group,” said Knight, a two-time Olympic silver medalist. “Regardless of who steps up and who’s coaching, we’ve got to do our own jobs.”

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Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

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Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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