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U.S. hockey takes early Olympic shape

Miracle on Ice Part II now has a partial cast.

The United States men's hockey team took the first step in its trek for an Olympic gold medal Monday by naming a coaching staff and 17 players to the team that will compete at Nagano in February.

Washington Capitals coach Ron Wilson, who led Team USA to the World Cup championship last year, will coach the first U.S. hockey Dream Team. That team includes Brian Leetch, John LeClair, Brett Hull and goalies John Vanbiesbrouck and Mike Richter.

Wilson will be assisted by minor-league coach John Cunniff, USA Hockey national coach Jeff Jackson and Philadelphia Flyers scout Paul Holmgren, Team USA general manager Lou Lamoriello said Monday. Six additional player spots will be filled by Dec. 1.

No matter who is added, though, Lamoriello thinks Team USA can repeat its World Cup performance. After all, of the players named to the squad Monday, 15 played in the World Cup.

"Every team you try to compose, three elements come into play: size, strength and skill," said Lamoriello, general manager of the New Jersey Devils. "And sometimes, more significant is chemistry. We need everyone in the same direction."

But only minutes after the initial selections were announced, controversy surfaced _ not because of who was on the roster, but who was left off. Bill Guerin, a free agent in a bitter contract dispute with Lamoriello and the Devils, was not among those named. Leetch is on the record as saying Guerin should be on the team regardless of his status.

"There is no question that Billy played an important role in the World Cup, as other players did," Lamoriello said. "But right now he's not playing at the highest level he can play, which is the National Hockey League. And there is some concern. In putting this team together, I've tried to step back from the New Jersey Devils. There is no conflict of interest here. Hopefully, Billy can get back to playing in the NHL and possibly be a part of this team."

Two players likely to be added are the Rangers' Pat LaFontaine and the Islanders' Bryan Berard. LaFontaine missed most of last season with a concussion, and Berard is in only his second season. But both are off to solid starts.

Lamoriello also said he will add a goaltender. He did not mention names, but Anaheim's Guy Hebert is the likely choice.

Washington's Adam Oates has said he will apply for dual citizenship in the event he does not make Team Canada's roster, but Lamoriello said he is interested only in players who want to play for "Team USA first."

It's not as if Team USA needs Oates anyway. If LaFontaine is added, the Americans' top three centers will be LaFontaine, Mike Modano and Doug Weight, with Joel Otto as the checking and faceoff center.

"If we don't win the gold medal, we'll be extremely disappointed," Wilson said. "We did that at the World Cup. From Day One we said we were playing for first place. It's not negative pressure. It's pressure great players cherish."

The competition features a preliminary round with teams from Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Kazakhstan, France, Germany, Japan and Belarus. Four of those teams advance to the championship round with Canada, the United States, Sweden, Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic.

Team USA begins play Feb. 13 against Sweden. The featured game before the medal games pits the United States against Canada on Feb. 16.

1998 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team

Note: Six players will be added by Dec. 1. The following is a list of players by position, their 1997-98 NHL teams and birthplaces.

GOALIES

Mike Richter, Rangers; Abington, Pa.

John Vansbiesbrouck, Florida; Detroit

DEFENSE

Chris Chelios, Chicago; Chicago

Derian Hatcher, Dallas; Sterling Heights, Mich.

Kevin Hatcher, Pittsburgh; Detroit

Brian Leetch, Rangers; Corpus Christi, Texas

Mathieu Schneider, Toronto; New York

Gary Suter, Chicago; Madison, Wis.

FORWARDS

Tony Amonte, Chicago; Hingham, Mass.

Adam Deadmarsh, Colorado; Trail, British Columbia

Brett Hull, St. Louis; Belleville, Ontario

John LeClair, Phila.; St. Albans, Vt.

Mike Modano, Dallas; Livonia, Mich.

Joel Otto, Philadelphia; Elk River, Minn.

Jeremy Roenick, Phoenix; Boston

Keith Tkachuk, Phoenix; Melrose, Mass.

Doug Weight, Edm.; Warren, Mich.

Coach: Ron Wilson

Assistant coaches: John Cunniff, Paul Holmgren, Jeff Jackson

POSSIBLE ADDITIONS

GOALIES

Tom Barrasso (Pittsburgh)

Jim Carey (Boston)

Guy Hebert (Anaheim)

DEFENSE

Bryan Berard (Islanders)

Shawn Chambers (Dallas)

Phil Housley (Washington)

Aaron Miller (Colorado)

Eric Weinrich (Chicago)

FORWARDS

Bill Guerin (New Jersey)

Steve Konowalchuk (Washington)

Pat LaFontaine (Rangers)

Shawn McEachern (Ottawa)

Shjon Podein (Philadelphia)

Bryan Smolinski (Islanders)

Kevin Stevens (Rangers)

Scott Young (Anaheim)

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