U.S. to pool its skilled resources

Burke expects to load up top two lines with scorers

By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

BOSTON -- Mike Komisarek and Phil Kessel won't be on hand at Fenway Park this afternoon when they officially are named to the U.S. Olympic team.

But their Olympic jerseys will be.

Kind of, anyway.

At the conclusion of today's Winter Classic between the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins, plans are for goalie Tim Thomas, a lock for Team USA, to skate out on the ice. He'll be accompanied by 22 kids wearing jerseys bearing the names of the other players selected to the team, including those of Komisarek and Kessel. It all will be part of the official unveiling of the Team USA roster.

NOT REACTIONARY

According to U.S. general manager Brian Burke, all roster decisions were finalized three days ago.

"We wanted to have our guys in place before Canada announced its roster," Burke said yesterday. "We were not going to be reactionary to anything they announced."

Burke has been steadfast in his blueprint for the team, especially up front: The top six or seven forwards will be skilled guys, the bottom six will be specialists.

"Canada can simply put its 23 best players out there and go from there," Burke said. "We can't do that. We're a little small in our skill group, so we need some beef in our bottom six.

"We need specialists, guys that excel in certain situations."

The top two lines iced by American head coach Ron Wilson of the Maple Leafs definitely will feature some talented performers, led by New Jersey Devils sniper Zach Parise. Kessel, Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown can all put the puck in the net on a regular basis.

On the blue line, Komisarek and the Devils' Paul Martin lead a unit that could be the Achilles heel of this team.

Between the pipes is where the Americans should shine. Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres arguably has been the best goalie in the NHL this season while the Bruins' Thomas and the Kings' Jonathan Quick are more than adequate backups.

"It will be an honour for these guys to represent their country," Burke said.

There will be no lack of motivation for U.S. players watching today's Winter Classic game, either. Scheduled to be at Fenway this afternoon are Jim Craig and other members of the 1980 Miracle On Ice gold-medal team that shocked the world with its upset of the Russians en route to the Olympic crown in Lake Placid, N.Y.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA

---

A U.S. GUESS

PROJECTED U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM

- GOALIES (3)

Ryan Miller BUF

Tim Thomas BOS

Jonathan Quick LA

- DEFENCEMEN (7)

Paul Martin NJ

Brian Rafalski DET

Brooks Orpik PIT

Erik Johnson STL

Ryan Suter NASH

Rob Scuderi LA

Mike Komisarek TOR

- FORWARDS (13)

Paul Stastny COL

Phil Kessel TOR

Patrick Kane CHI

Ryan Kesler VAN

Chris Drury NYR

David Backes STL

Bobby Ryan ANA

Ryan Malone TB

Jamie Langenbrunner NJ

Zach Parise NJ

Ryan Callahan NYR

Dustin Brown LA

Joe Pavelski SJ

- ON THE BUBBLE

F Paul Gaustad BUF

D Jack Johnson LA

POLL