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Sochi Express: 25 NHL hockey players slash way onto Team USA Olympics train

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Twenty-five National Hockey League players scored tickets to the 2014 Winter Olympics this February. At the conclusion of the today’s NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Team USA squad was announced by USA Hockey.

Chosen behind closed doors by general manager David Poile, associate general manager Ray Shero, and director of player personnel Brian Burke, the line-up is stoked with Olympic veterans, and rising stars.

Here’s the roster for Team USA, led by coach Dan Bylsma, with the veteran Olympians bolded:

Centers: David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks), Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks), Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche)

Left Wings: Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), Zach Parise (Minnesota Wild), Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens), James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Right Wings: Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Toronto), T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues)

Extra Forwards: Derek Stepan (Rangers), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets)

Defensemen: John Carlson (Washington Capitals), Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes), Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks), Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins), Ryan McDonagh (NY Rangers), Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues), Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)

Goaltenders: Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings), Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles)

"We're fortunate to have probably the deepest talent pool we've ever had in our country and that made for some very difficult decisions. In the end, however, we're confident we've selected a group of players that puts us in the best position to have success in Sochi,"said Poile.

Within this squad, only the “leadership” unit of Backes, Brown, Callahan, Parise and Suter, who were handpicked in July, were virtual locks to compete in Sochi, Russia in February.

Apart from the 13 Olympic veterans who once more were tapped, the remainder of the squad matched the pundits' best bets with some shocking exceptions: Vancouver Olympians Bobby Ryan, Erik Johnson, and Jack Johnson missed the cut.

Further, those stickmen selected, who were on the bubble, include: Carlson, Faulk, Howard, and Wheeler.

The men have not won a gold medal in the Olympics since the "Miracle" team at the Lake Placid 1980 Olympics. Since ice hockey was added to the Olympics slate in 1920, the U.S. squad has won two gold, eight silver, and two bronze medals among the 22 competitions on this world stage.

During the second intermission of this Winter Classic, the U.S. Women's Olympics Ice Hockey Team was announced. Twenty-two stickwomen are also boarding the "Sochi Express."

All athletes will be soon nominated to the U.S. Olympic Committee who is expected to approve all of these selected athletes.

Subscribe to all my articles that track Team USA in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics!

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