No surprise: Zach Parise, Ryan Suter among locals invited to Olympic camp
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Together, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise won a gold medal in the World Junior Championships in 2004, and were one shot away from gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics, settling for silver when Canada beat Team USA in overtime.
That duo is widely expected to get another shot at gold in February, when the world's best hockey teams gather in Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics. On Monday, Parise and Suter were the only members of the Minnesota Wild to get invites to USA Hockey's orientation camp from which the final roster will be picked.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Predators general manager David Poile will fill the same roles with Team USA and will have the biggest hand in picking the final roster when the 48 invitees gather on Aug. 26-27 for two days of on-ice work outside Washington, D.C.
Parise and Suter, now alternate captains for the Wild, were alternate captains in 2010 and are expected to fill similar roles in Sochi. Team USA has claimed silver at two of the past three Olympics - 2010 in in Vancouver, and with Herb Brooks' final Olympic team in 2002 in Salt Lake City - but has not won Olympic gold since the famed Miracle on Ice in 1980.
In all, 15 of the 48 players invited have Minnesota connections. They include defensemen Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg Jets/Roseau), Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes/South St. Paul/Minnesota Duluth), Jake Gardiner (Toronto Maple Leafs/Minnetonka), Erik Johnson (Colorado Avalanche/Bloomington/Gophers), Nick Leddy (Chicago Blackhawks/Eden Prairie/Gophers) Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers/St. Paul), Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins/Elk River/Gophers and Suter.
Forwards with Minnesota connections include David Backes (St. Louis Blues/Spring Lake Park/Minnesota State Mankato), Nick Bjugstad (Florida Panthers/Blaine/Gophers), Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs/Gophers), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders/St. Paul/Gophers), T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues/Warroad), Derek Stepan (New York Rangers/Hastings), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets/Robbinsdale/Gophers) and Parise.
The Olympic hockey competition will take place Feb. 12-23, with the NHL taking a nearly three-week break to accommodate the games.
Kleinendorst to coach Iowa Wild
Two months ago, Grand Rapids native Kurt Kleinendorst left the college head coaching job at Alabama Huntsville after only one season, admitting that his heart and his focus were on professional hockey.
On Monday, Kleinendorst officially found his way back to the pro game, being named the first head coach of the Wild's new American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild.
Kleinendorst, 52, played high school hockey during the days of Grand Rapids' "Halloween Machine" dynasty, then collegiately at Providence. He bounced around minor league hockey in North America and Europe for seven years after college and has been coaching since 1991.
The Wild are the third NHL team he has worked for, after coaching the top minor league teams for the Devils and Senators in the past. The Iowa Wild begin play this fall in downtown Des Moines after the former Houston Aeros relocated in the offseason.