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United States unveils Olympic hockey team roster for 2018 Winter Games

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United States unveils Olympic hockey team roster for 2018 Winter Games

Veteran winger Brian Gionta will serve as captain of the U.S. Olympic hockey team at the Winter Olympics, which will be the first without NHL players since 1994.

USA Hockey announced its roster Monday at the Winter Classic in New York. It includes college players Troy Terry from Denver, Jordan Greenway from Boston University, Will Borgen from St. Cloud State and Ryan Donato from Harvard.

"We really like our roster," general manager Jim Johannson said. "It's a group that brings versatility and experience and includes players who have a lot of passion about representing our country."

Without the ability to name NHL stars like Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Auston Matthews and Jonathan Quick, the U.S. roster is a mix of players from the NCAA ranks, European professional leagues and the American Hockey League. AHL star Chris Bourque and a handful of former NHL players now in Europe, including Mark Arcobello, Jim Slater, James Wisniewski and Bobby Sanguinetti, are expected to help Gionta on the leadership front.

"I think it's a great mix of young talent and veteran players with a lot of international experience," said Sanguinetti, who was a first-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2006. "Excited to get together in a month."

Tony Granato, who played at the 1988 Olympics and now coaches at Wisconsin, will be behind the bench in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as the U.S. seeks its first Olympic gold medal since the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" team. The U.S. lost the bronze medal game to Finland in 2014 and got the silver in Vancouver in 2010.

But this is an entirely different dynamic with the NHL choosing not to send players, as national federations couldn't pick any player with an active NHL contract. The initial U.S. roster includes the admittedly "semi-retired" Gionta, three players from the AHL in Bourque, Bobby Butler and John McCarthy, four from college and 15 currently playing in leagues across Europe.

Ryan Zapolski, who plays for Finnish-based Jokerit in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, is the only goaltender on the roster so far, with two more to be added later in January. Granato said after the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup that Zapolski had the tools to be the Americans' starting goalie even though it was too early to name him as such.

Two-time defending gold-medal-winning Canada is expected to announce its roster on Jan. 11. Because NHL players aren't going, Gionta called the tournament "wide open," something Canada coach Willie Desjardins and others have said in recent months.

To that end, the U.S. roster is a blend of youth and experience that also takes into account the wider, international-sized ice that the tournament will be played on.

"We have a decent amount of players that are already used to playing in Europe on the big ice, which can be helpful," said defenseman Ryan Gunderson, who's currently playing in Sweden. "(We have) some younger, college guys, which I'm sure will bring a lot of skill and energy, then proven AHL players that can produce, as well. Gio, of course, has experienced the Olympics before and will lead the way."

Gionta, 38, put up 588 points in 1,006 regular-season games over 15 NHL seasons for the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres. He played for the U.S. at the 2006 Olympics and has been practicing with the AHL's Rochester Americans to stay in shape for Pyeongchang.

The U.S. faces Slovenia in its Olympic opener on Feb. 14.

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This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

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Twitter/@PeachOmania

This Caps Stanley Cup tattoo has everyone's beat

Since the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time over one month ago, Caps fans, (and players), have rushed to their local tattoo parlor to get some ink commemorating the win.

We've seen the classic Capitals logo with the Stanley Cup, but nothing that comes close to the masterpiece that is Shane Peacher's tattoo.

Peacher tweeted to Joe B and Courtney Laughlin the finished tat: a work of art featuring Alex Ovechkin kissing the Stanley Cup for the first time as it's hoisted over his head.

Joe B replied making sure Shane had enough room on his other tricep for next year.

Shane replied that he's thinking of Evgeny Kuznetsov's iconic celebration that has since been dubbed the "birdman."

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Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

Key Caps questions: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing long-term?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan are here to help you through the offseason doldrums. They will discuss key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Will John Carlson repeat his career year after signing a long-term contract?

Tarik: When a player has a career year and it coincides with the final year of his contract, the reaction from some fans and media is often a sarcastic, ‘Well, of course he did.’

And I’m sure there are some folks who wonder about Carlson’s breakout season and whether there was a connection between the uptick in his production and the potential of an enormous payday.

Indeed, the 28-year-old established highs in goals (15), assists (53), points (68) and ice time (24:47). He was outstanding in the postseason, too, amassing five goals and 15 assists while playing solidly in his own end to help lead the Caps to their first championship.

The financial reward came a couple of weeks later when he signed an eight-year, $64 million contract to remain in Washington.

Which brings us to today’s question.

It’s obviously impossible to say for sure what’s going to happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he had another big season. Why? A few reasons:

  • As good as he was, last year wasn’t a total outlier, either. Carlson racked up 55 points (12 goals, 43 assists) in 2014-15, which was tied for fifth best among blue liners that year.
  • He was at his best last season skating with trade deadline addition Michal Kempny. Kempny, of course, also re-upped, agreeing to a four-year extension. So, in theory, Carlson should be able to pick up where he left off.
  • Carlson has credited Todd Reirden with helping him take his game to new heights. Well, Reirden is now the guy in charge of the whole operation. How could that not help?
  • A major reason Carlson puts up so many points is his role on the power play. And that unit, which really hit its stride in the postseason (29.3-percent), returns all five skaters.
  • Carlson has also been pretty durable, which is critical to being productive. In fact, last season he skated in all of the Caps’ games for the sixth time in eight full-time seasons.

So, yeah, it’s all setting up nicely for Carlson to have a strong 2018-19.

To me, the only unknown is whether he’ll have the same hunger and determination now that he’s got long-term security and that previously elusive championship ring.

Again, that’s impossible to predict. But I can tell you this: Over the course of two decades in this business, I’ve covered lots of players who inked life-changing contracts. With a few of them, I had immediate concerns.

I have no such reservations about Carlson's ability to play up to his new deal, particularly in the first several seasons of it.

JJ: There's nothing wrong with a player being motivated by a new deal, but I am always wary when players have career years on the last year of their contract.

The issue is whether or not a player can continue to play at the level they showed when a new contract is no longer a motivating factor. After signing a new deal for eight years and $64 million, Carlson won't have to think about money or contracts for a long time.

When it comes to motivation, a lot of the questions surrounding the Capitals this year will depend on how they react to winning the Cup. Of course everyone wants to repeat, but psychologically will they come into camp more motivated than ever to defend their title or will they be satisfied with finally winning it all?

For Carlson, there are several reasons to be hopeful. Tarik went over a number of those reasons above, but the two biggest for me are Michal Kempny and Todd Reirden.

This season, Carlson will have Kempny as his partner to start, rather than a cycle of practically every left-handed defenseman on the ice depending on the situation. Second, what Mitch Korn is to goalies, Reirden is to defensemen. With him as the head coach, I believe the ceiling for Carlson will only continue to climb.

Let's also go beyond the numbers. Matt Niskanen suffered an injury early last season that forced Carlson into a primary role on both ends of the ice. He was playing nearly 30 minutes a night and, with two rookies on the blue line who Barry Trotz did everything he could to shelter, those were very hard minutes. Yet, Carlson excelled. The offensive upside was always there, but the way he played defensively was a revelation.

While Dmitry Orlov and Niskanen will remain a solid pair for the Caps, I believe Carlson will be the guy heading into the season which will mean more minutes and more responsibility.

Plus, despite what he meant to the team's defense and despite leading all defensemen in points with 68, Carlson was not selected to participate in the All-Star Game, he was not one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy and he was not among the four defensemen named to the end of season All-Star team. His incredible season earned him no recognition at all other than his new contract. A $64 million contract is a heck of a consolation prize, but his season deserved more recognition than that.

You don't often see a player of his caliber enter a season with a chip on his shoulder, but Carlson should have a fairly sizable one.

Other key questions

How will the Caps look different under Todd Reirden?
Will the Caps suffer a Stanley Cup hangover?
Can Alex Ovechkin still challenge for another Rocket Richard Trophy?
Has Evgeny Kuznetsov made the jump from really good player to superstar?