U.S. banks on youth for ice hockey glory

By Steve Keating

BOSTON (Reuters) - The United States named a young ice hockey squad featuring 20 Olympic rookies on Friday, hoping an injection of fresh blood will lead to a successful assault on a gold medal at next month's 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.

Only three players with Olympic experience -- Chris Drury, Brian Rafalski and Jamie Langenbrunner -- were called up by Team USA general manager Brian Burke, who announced the squad on the ice at Fenway Park moments after the NHL's third Winter Classic.

The remainder of the squad will get their first taste of the Olympic pressure cooker when they open against Switzerland on February 16.

"We have no bold predictions but we're going there win."

Burke's squad selection signals a turning of the page within U.S. hockey as long-time stalwarts of the national team such as Mike Modano, Scott Gomez, Bill Guerin and Keith Tkachuk were all replaced by younger charges.

The roster includes the current top three American scorers in the NHL, Chicago's Patrick Kane, New Jersey's Zach Parise and Colorado's Paul Stastny along with Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, son of 1980 "Miracle on Ice" defenseman Bob Suter.

"We've had a generation of players who have represented our country with great ferocity and have answered the bell every time," Burke added.

"To steal a line from (television journalist) Tom Brokaw, 'this was our greatest generation as far as what's been accomplished the last 15 years' by that group of the (Brian) Leetchs, the (Chris) Chelios', the (Tony) Amontes and on an on."

Goaltending should be one of Team USA's strengths with Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Boston's Tim Thomas, last season's Vezina trophy winner as the NHL's top netminder, expected to fight for the starting assignment.

Squad:

Goaltenders: Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings), Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins).

Defensemen: Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues), Jack Johnson (Los Angeles Kings), Mike Komisarek (Toronto Maple Leafs), Paul Martin (New Jersey Devils), Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins), Brian Rafalski (Detroit Red Wings), Ryan Suter (Nashville Predators)

Forwards: David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers), Chris Drury (New York Rangers), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks), Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs), Jamie Langenbrunner (New Jersey Devils), Ryan Malone (Tampa Bay Lightening), Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils), Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks), Bobby Ryan (Anaheim Ducks), Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche).

(Additional reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by John O'Brien)