Speed and defense — it is the formula U.S. Olympic coach Dan Bylsma is hoping will push the Americans to their first gold medal in men's hockey since 1980.
Bylsma took part in a conference call Friday, two days after the Olympic roster was announced in Ann Arbor, Mich., at the Winter Classic. The U.S. came within a whisker of a gold medal in Vancouver in 2010, losing in overtime to Canada in the championship game.
The Americans still have a hard time matching the star power of the Canadians and Russians, but they've shown in the past they can contend if they get a strong collective effort.
"Skating and speed at a premium," Bylsma said. "We also thought this group of players and this team should be great defensively."
Bobby Ryan, who helped the United States earn a silver medal in 2010, was probably the highest-profile omission from the roster this time around. Goaltender Ryan Miller, the tournament MVP at the Vancouver Games, is back on the team. Jonathan Quick and Jimmy Howard are the other two goalies.
Whether it was Jim Craig in 1980 or Miller 30 years later, terrific goaltending always seems vital to any success the U.S. may have at the Olympics. Miller has a 92.6 save percentage this season for the Buffalo Sabres, but Quick and Howard have both been limited by injuries.
Howard is coming off a sprained knee, and Quick hasn't played since Nov. 12 because of a groin injury.
"We've been well aware of their status and what their injuries are," Bylsma said.
Bylsma was joined on the call by forwards David Backes and Zach Parise, two holdovers from 2010. NHL stars competing at the Olympics always face questions about how a gold medal might compare to winning a Stanley Cup.
"I say it's like asking a mother to pick between two kids," Backes said.