The United States is taking advantage of the first close-to-home IIHF world hockey championship in decades.
The red, white and blue open an eight-day training camp tomorrow in Portland and Falmouth, Me., before heading to Halifax for the May 2 to 18 tournament at the Metro Centre.
The world championship hasn’t been held in North America since 1962, when Colorado Springs, outside Denver, played host.
“Usually, when we go over (to Europe), there’s a game the next day, maybe a couple of practices, and we’re right into it,” U.S. forward Jeff Halpern said. “Being able to have a training camp and get acclimated to the team, the system, and not having to worry about the (travel) factors — it’s going to help.”
The Americans could use a change of scenery. In the past 11 years at the world championship, they have won just one medal — bronze in 2004.
“We’re not going to bombard the players with team concept, but we’re going to have a structure of how we want to play,” U.S. head coach John Tortorella said. “It gives us a few days to get everybody playing within a system.”
That system will be based on speed and grit, and differs slightly from past years on the bigger European ice surfaces.
“We’re going to play a system that you can get away with in a smaller rink,” Tortorella said. “We’re going to play an aggressive style. There’s not going to be a bunch of trapping going on. We’re going to puck pursue and push the pace.”
The U.S. team has already named 17 players. It added former Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Robert Esche from Russia last week, and subtracted forward Paul Gaustad of the Buffalo Sabres on Friday because of an undisclosed illness.
The young squad has an average age of 23.8, with Calder Trophy candidates Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and Peter Mueller of the Phoenix Coyotes leading the way.
The final round of roster announcements could be made this week as the first round of the NHL playoffs wraps up.
Forwards Brian Rolston, David Legwand and Zach Parise and defenceman Mathieu Schneider are among the top U.S.-born players eliminated from the post-season.
Canada, meanwhile, could extend invitations to a couple of high-profile goaltenders — Martin Brodeur and former Halifax Mooseheads stopper Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Forwards Dany Heatley and Ryan Getzlaf and defencemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer would also be welcome, if they’re healthy and interested in playing.
Teemu Selanne and Mikko Koivu (Finland) and Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra (Slovakia) are others to watch for.
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