Penguins defensemen Orpik, Martin named to U.S. Olympic hockey team



Paul Martin of the Penguins knew there were a lot of candidates to play on Team USA's defense at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

He also realized that only one of them hails from Elk River, Minn.

Him.

So even though Martin "definitely believed I'd be there," he didn't know for certain he had a spot on the roster until he watched the roster announcement Wednesday and "saw a kid wearing my jersey and heard them say, 'From Elk River ... ' "

Martin seemed almost as pleased to hear his hometown identified correctly as he was about getting named to an Olympic team for the third time.

"Usually, they say 'Minneapolis,' " he said.

Martin will be joined on the team by Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, and it's possible -- even likely -- that they will form a defensive pairing for the tournament in Sochi, Russia.

Because Olympic teams have so little time to jell, keeping players who have worked together on their NHL clubs makes a lot of sense, and Orpik and Martin have meshed well.

That presumably won't be news to Team USA coach Dan Bylsma, since he doubles as coach of the Penguins.

"I could definitely see that happening," Orpik said. "In a short tournament like that, having familiarity with guys definitely can help."

It will be awhile, though, before Orpik and Martin will have another opportunity to work together.

Martin has missed the Penguins' past 16 games because of a broken tibia and, while he hopes to get clearance to resume skating before the end of this week, he doesn't anticipate rejoining the lineup before a game Jan. 15 against Washington, and probably after that.

"I'd like to get in six to 10 games toward the end of this month and in early February," he said.

Although this is the third time Martin has been selected, he has yet to skate a shift in the Games. He was taken as an injury replacement in 2006 but was not needed, and missed the 2010 Games because he was hurt.

The others who will join Orpik and Martin on Team USA are:

Goalies -- Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles), Ryan Miller (Buffalo), Jimmy Howard (Detroit).

Forwards -- David Backes (St. Louis), Dustin Brown (Los Angeles), Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers), Patrick Kane (Chicago), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver), Phil Kessel (Toronto), T.J. Oshie (St. Louis), Max Pacioretty (Montreal), Zach Parise (Minnesota), Joe Pavelski (San Jose), Paul Stastny (Colorado), Derek Stepan (New York Rangers), James van Riemsdyk (Toronto) and Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg).

Defensemen -- John Carlson (Washington), Justin Faulk (Caroline), Cam Fowler (Anaheim), Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers), Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis), Ryan Suter (Minnesota).

Bylsma and Penguins general manager Ray Shero, who is an assistant GM for the squad, were instructed by USA Hockey not to discuss the selection process Wednesday.

Players conspicuous by their absence include forwards Bobby Ryan (Ottawa), Pine-Richland graduate Brandon Saad (Chicago) and Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), goalies Ben Bishop (Tampa Bay), Cory Schneider (New Jersey) and Tim Thomas (Florida) and defensemen Jack Johnson (Columbus), Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg) and Keith Yandle (Phoenix).

"There was an argument for a lot of guys who made it or didn't make it," Orpik said. "A lot more of those tough decisions than they've had in the past."

Orpik played on the 2010 team that took Canada to overtime in the gold-medal game in Vancouver and is one of no fewer than 13 U.S. players with Olympic experience.

The ever-increasing number of quality players in the United States is part of the reason some qualified candidates didn't make the cut. Management's approach -- to assemble a genuine team, not simply an all-star squad -- also was a factor.

"We did not pick the best 25 players," Team USA general manager David Poile said at a news conference in Ann Arbor, Mich. "We picked the best players that we felt gave us a chance to compete."

Including a guy from Elk River, Minn.


Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published January 1, 2014 5:21 PM

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