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Ogdensburg’s Howard selected to U.S. Olympic team

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Jimmy Howard fought off injuries and in-season struggles to win a spot Wednesday on the U.S. men’s hockey roster ahead of the Sochi Olympics in February.

Howard, who was born in Syracuse but grew up in Ogdensburg and played briefly for Ogdensburg Free Academy, appears to be the Americans’ third goaltender behind Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller.

He hasn’t played well and has been injured for much of the season for the Detroit Red Wings, but his body of work boosted his bid ahead of Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“From a personal standpoint being in the same division as the Wings for years I know what Jimmy can do,” said team general manager David Poile. “I think this has not been his best year, but his body of work has been fabulous.”

Howard’s Red Wings lost in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Winter Classic on Wednesday prior to the U.S. team announcement and his season record dropped to 6-9-8. His goals-against average is at 2.72 with a .907 save percentage.

“November wasn’t very kind to me, then going down with a knee injury in early December and really not playing,” Howard said. “I worked my tail off and my trainers did a tremendous job of getting me back and getting me into a rhythm.”

Howard is the only Red Wings goalie to win 35 games in a season his first two years. He won 37 his first two seasons and won 35 last year.

“The big games that he has won for the Wings, especially on the road and behind in series, or what have you, I mean, I know what Jimmy Howard can do but I think the rest of our committee knows what he can do and he got a spot on the Olympic team based on his body of work,” Poile said.

The Lightning’s Bishop has the most wins (29) and the best goals-against average (1.89) among American-born No. 1 goalies in the NHL this season.

“He’s playing lights out,” Poile acknowledged. “Our decisions were tough in goal — really tough.”

So tough that Bobby Ryan, who helped the United States earn a silver medal in 2010 in Vancouver, won’t have a chance to help the Americans go for the gold. Only 10 NHL players — from all countries — have more goals than he does this season for the Ottawa Senators, but he was not selected.

“We did not pick the best 25 players,” Poile said. “We picked the best 25 players that we thought gave us a chance to compete and win the gold medal.”

In Sochi, the U.S. forwards will be: David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, James van Riemsdyk and Blake Wheeler. John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Brooks Orpik, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Suter will be on defense for the Americans.

Other players who could’ve potentially been on the team, but weren’t selected include: Keith Yandle, Kyle Okposo, Cory Schneider, Brandon Saad and Dustin Byfuglien. Massena’s Zach Bogosian, a defenseman for Winnipeg, also was left off the team.

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