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U.S. Olympic hockey camp concludes with scrimmage

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Now that 39 Olympic hockey
hopefuls have filled out forms, run some drills and had a few days
to bond with fellow players and coaches, the time has come to earn
their spots on the team that will head to Turin.
The three-day U.S. Olympic orientation camp wrapped up Thursday
with a spirited scrimmage, a 4-3 victory for the blue team over the
white.
The players then headed out of town to get ready for NHL
training camps that will begin next week. It won't be long until
opening night on Oct. 5.
That's when Olympic tryouts begin in earnest.
"We're going to do depth charts by team," Team USA general
manager Don Waddell said. "Every team is going to have guys we're
going to watch, some teams are going to have more guys."
Goaltenders seemed to be ahead of skaters Thursday after the
season-long layoff caused by the NHL lockout. Philadelphia's Robert
Esche made a few tough saves, fending off scoring chances set up by
odd-man rushes.
"It was pretty upbeat," U.S. coach Peter Laviolette said.
"The tempo this morning, the first half was good. The other seemed
to fall off a little bit."
New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro tried to get into the
scoring act, skating the length of the ice for a penalty shot
against Buffalo's Ryan Miller, who made a pad stop.
"That was a brutal move, I should've just stayed in the net.
That was embarrassing," DiPietro said.
Waddell, along with assistant GM Paul Holmgren and director of
hockey operations Jim Johannson will split up player lists and do
extensive scouting over the first three months of the NHL season.
They will keep in touch with Laviolette, who said his top priority
now is getting his Carolina Hurricanes off to a good start.
Some players who were invited to Colorado Springs this week
would really have to play their way off the team. Some probably
never had much of a chance to make the squad.
"I've never really done anything like this. It was definitely a
good experience on and off the ice," 20-year-old Nashville
defenseman Ryan Suter said. "It gets the top U.S. guys out there.
I was trying to keep up with them and trying to establish myself
among those guys."
Then there are those who weren't asked to attend, older players
who might perform so well before the team selection in January that
there is no way they can be left home when the NHL takes a break in
its season.
Waddell and his staff felt it was beneficial to bring a new crop
of players into the fold and give them a taste of the international
game as opposed to inviting veterans who have been through all this
several times before.
"We thought this was an opportunity to bring some of the
younger guys to be on the same ice as Mike Modano, Billy Guerin,
Keith Tkachuk," said Waddell, the Atlanta Thrashers' GM. "Are
they ready to play in the Olympics? Probably not. You don't get
this opportunity very often to bring this kind of a group
together."
Laviolette stressed that everyone invited to the camp has a real
chance to make the team -- young and old alike.
"We're not ready to hand over the baton," said 34-year-old
forward Doug Weight, a two-time Olympian. "We've got a lot left to
offer. We're all about being good teammates, but we're here for a
job as well. We want to be a part of that team in four months."
On the administrative side, USA Hockey wanted to bring the group
in to take care of some technical issues before the Olympics.
Players needed to fill out forms, get passport documentation
intact, have photos taken, get briefed on Olympic drug testing, and
be fitted for uniforms.
This was never meant to be a tryout or training camp.
"We're not having one meeting about who has been the best
player here or anything like that," Waddell said. "That's not the
purpose of it."
Laviolette wanted to begin instilling a playing system. But he
won't see his players again until Feb. 13 when everyone heads over
to Italy. By then, the team will have been picked and there will be
time for only one practice before the Olympics opener against
Latvia on Feb. 15.
"You have a bunch of guys from a bunch of different places,
playing a bunch of different ways. You have to somehow corral them
and try to bring them in as one," Laviolette said. "We didn't
accomplish that here this week, but we did give them the
information how we're going to try to do that."