LARRY LAGE, AP Hockey Writer
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.
“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.
Quick won the Conn Smythe as MVP of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs when he helped the Kings become the only eighth-seeded team to win a championship.
“He’s a great goalie and he’s going to do great for us,” Miller said. “We’ll see where it goes from here and I’ll be ready to play.”
Quick hasn’t been at his best this season.
His save percentage ranks 29th among NHL goalies and he was out for nearly two months with a groin injury before returning to play in early January.
Miller ranks 10th in save percentage despite playing for the Buffalo Sabres, who easily have the worst record in the league.
Howard, who has been out during two stretches of the season with an injured left knee, is not expected to be in uniform much if at all during the Sochi Games. He ranks 24th in the NHL in save percentage, but has four-plus years of experience as a No. 1 goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings.
“We’re dealing with a position of strength when it comes to the goaltender decision,” Bylsma said.
Quick said it was a casual conversation with Bylsma when he found out he would make his first Olympic start.
“We’ve got a few great goalies here,” Quick said. “Each one probably deserves to play and can make a case for each of them in their own right. So, regardless of what his decision was, whatever your role is, you’re just trying to do what you can to help your team.”
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