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With practice underway in Sochi, U.S. line combos have Minnesota flavor


With the greatest hockey competition to come around every four years here again, Team Canada and Team USA got practices underway in Sochi at the Olympic Games Monday.

The U.S. men's national team left the states Sunday to arrive in Russia without general manager David Poile, who took a puck to the face at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday and required facial surgeries at a St. Paul hospital the next day. He is expected to join the team later in the week.

With practice commencing Monday, reporters on scene were able to get a glimpse of what lines will look like come Thursday when the U.S. takes on Slovakia at 6:30 A.M.

The national team's second line has a Minnesota flavor, with Wild star Zach Parise and Minnesota natives David Backes and T.J. Oshie skating together. The lines are not official, but coach Dan Bylsma says his combos are set and players know what they are, meaning it would be rather strange if players weren't skating with their gameday lines Monday.

Defenders with Minnesota ties are Ryan Suter, the Wild' workhorse at the blue line, and Pittsburgh's Paul Martin, who won two national championships with the University of Minnesota in 2002 and 2003.

Suter was paired with Cam Fowler today, while Martin was with Kevin Shattenkirk, Oshie's teammate with the St. Louis Blues, as the third defensive group on the ice.

Another nugget from the day is that Bylsma has chosen his goalie, but has not disclosed to players or the media whether it will be Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard, or Buffalo's Ryan Miller.

Miller started all six games for the national team in 2010, leading the team to gold medal game appearance against Canada, and the entire games in save percentage.

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