SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Jonathan Quick was sitting and stretching before practice when U.S. hockey coach Dan Bylsma skated toward him. Bylsma leaned over and told him he was starting against Slovakia in the Americans’ Olympic opener Thursday against Slovakia.
“I’m fortunate for the opportunity,” Quick said. “And I’ll just try to make the most of it.”
Bylsma declined to say who will be the team’s goaltender for the other preliminary-round games, which includes a key matchup with Russia on Saturday.
“We have plans for Game 1,” Bylsma said Wednesday after practice.
Quick is getting the nod instead of Ryan Miller and Jimmy Howard.
Miller helped the Americans win silver and was the Most Valuable Player of the hockey tournament at the 2010 Olympics when Quick was their No. 3 goalie.
Team USA’s big rival and tournament favorite Canada has also settled on its starting goaltender. The Canadians will start Carey Price in their opener against Norway on Thursday, while Roberto Luongo will start Friday against Austria.
Canada coach Mike Babcock announced his rotation Wednesday after practice in Sochi, but Babcock and both goalies attributed no significance to the order.
The coach had previously said both goalies likely would start at least once in the preliminary round before he decides who will backstop Canada during its run at a third gold medal in the last four Olympics.
“Obviously I’m thrilled, and I’m just ready to go,” said Price, the Montreal Canadiens’ three-time All-Star. “It’s definitely a highlight. I seem to have had a lot in my young life so far, but this definitely ranks up there.”
Price, a British Columbia native, will make his Olympic debut against Norway.
The 34-year-old Luongo is a three-time Olympian who already earned a gold medal in 2010 after stepping in for Martin Brodeur. Luongo won four straight elimination games in Vancouver, making 34 saves in the overtime final against the United States.
The Vancouver Canucks goalie isn’t bothered by the competition for Canada’s starting job from Price and Phoenix’s Mike Smith.
“We’re all here to play for Team Canada, man,” Luongo said. “We’re all pulling on the same rope. It’s a team game right now. It’s not about Roberto Luongo or Carey Price or Mike Smith. It’s about being a part of Team Canada. It doesn’t matter what role you’re given. You have to embrace it and accept it.”
Canada is expected to dominate its weak preliminary-round group, which also includes Finland. The top four teams in preliminary play advance directly to the quarterfinals and, from there, need just one more victory to play for medals.
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