Whitney gets Olympic spot

The Ducks now have nine players representing the team in the Olympic Games, the most in the NHL.

Ryan Whitney joins teammates Bobby Ryan (USA), Scott Niedermayer, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry (Canada), Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne (Finland), Jonas Hiller and prospect Luca Sbisa (Switzerland).

"It's really special," Whitney said. "I think that shows that there's a lot of talent on this team. Unfortunately right now we're kind of battling to get into the playoffs. We didn't have the best start but the last month or so has been pretty good and I think it shows that the guys in the room are a good group of guys and players."

As for Team USA's prospects in the Games, Whitney shares the sentiment expressed by his teammate Bobby Ryan, who believes that going into the competition as a prohibitive underdog, not expected to make much of an impact, is the perfect scenario.

"We don't have much to lose and I think that people don't expect much from us," said Whitney, "but we expect a lot from ourselves. I think if you look at our team, there's a lot of speed. It's a youthful group and I know everyone in that locker room in Chicago this summer was pretty confident that we could do a lot of damage and win a gold medal and that's the goal. You're not going there to just compete; you're going there to win. So we expect nothing less, no matter what the public thinks."

Of course, nobody gave U.S. Olympic teams a prayer in previous Games, including 1960 and 1980, when both squads came home with gold medals. Whitney wasn't on the planet for either of those competitions, but he does recall watching the 1996 World Cup when he was just 13 years old.

"It was game three against Canada," he recalled. "Tony Amonte got the winning goal."

Amonte's game-winner came in the third and final game of the championship series between the U.S. and Canada, a goal that won the gold medal for Team USA.

"I remember being in a basement with a couple friends and all their dads and my father and going crazy down there," Whitney recalled with a smile. "I know my dad says his favorite sports moment is the '80 Olympic team and I got to watch the '96 World Cup with him ... that stuff kinda gives you goose bumps, so it was pretty special."

Even more special was that Whitney, a Boston native, ended up playing his high school hockey at Thayer Academy, where Amonte, Jeremy Roenick and David Silk, a member of the 1980 Olympic team, played. Whitney then went on to play his college hockey at Boston University, where Amonte also played.

"There's a lot of players from Massachusetts who have worn the nation's colors," said Whitney, "so I think that's pretty special and I think that shows that hockey in Massachusetts ... it's kind of suffered a little bit lately, but it's one of the best states for hockey and it's produced a lot of good players."

With so many players on the Ducks representing four different countries, one can only wonder if there's been a little competitive edginess in the room as the Games rapidly approach.

"It's quite an important time for our team," said Whitney, "so there hasn't been much talk about it since the original rosters were named, but I'm sure right before we leave there will be a little ribbing here and there with guys getting ready to play one another."

The ribbing isn't likely to last too long, at least as far as number 19 is concerned. He's going to Vancouver with just one goal in mind.

"Playing for your country and winning gold," Whitney said, as he headed back into the locker room to get ready for the Kings game. "That's the dream this year and I think we have the team that can do it."

Tom Murray covers hockey for ESPNLosAngeles.com.