U.S. goal is medal in Olympics


The U.S. Olympic hockey team will be searching for gold in France.

And if the medal can't be gold, a silver or bronze will do nicely, thank you.

"Our goal all along has been to win a medal in these Olympic Games, hopefully a gold," said coach Dave Peterson before his team left for Albertville, France, last week to begin preparations for the Winter Olympics.

"We believe we can win a medal. We've learned a lot of things on our tour against National Hockey League teams [4-14-3 after beating the Washington Capitals, 5-3, last week at the Capital Centre]. We have stayed fairly healthy, we have a nice blend of younger and veteran talent, our goaltending is solid, and beating a quality team like the Capitals in our final game gives us a positive feeling as we head for France."

Steve Heinze, the property of the Boston Bruins who scored two goals and had an assist in the win over Washington, said: "This was our last game on this continent, and we were really pumped up. After winning, we were like a bunch of kids in a candy store. We beat a very good NHL team -- we know they didn't have all their players, but they are still very good -- and this gives us great hope for the Olympics. We have a solid, capable team, and anything is possible in France."

Ray LeBlanc, the property of the Chicago Blackhawks who shares Team USA's goaltending with former Baltimore Skipjack Scott Gordon, had 32 saves in the win over Washington.

Team USA's first Olympic test will be Feb. 9 against Italy, which is coached by former Skipjacks and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Gene Ubriaco.


Milestones: Capitals defenseman Kevin Hatcher played in his 500th NHL game on Sunday. Dino Ciccarelli needs one goal for his 100th as a Capital. He recently had his 400th NHL assist. Al Iafrate recently got his 300th NHL point.


Trading block: The hottest rumor is that the Los Angeles Kings, ** who need an offensive defenseman and another goaltender, have talked to the Capitals about trading left wing Tony Granato and defenseman Rob Blake for Iafrate, right wing John Druce and goalie Mike Liut. Another hot rumor is that the St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers are discussing a deal that would send unhappy center Adam Oates to the Rangers.

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