- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Joe Pavelski is skating under the radar for the U.S. hockey team.

“That’s fine,” Pavelski said with a shrug after Wednesday’s practice.

Teammates, coaches and management expect that to change when the games begin because the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Pavelski can do it all.

“He’s not the biggest or strongest guy, but he has a nose for the net and he can play in every situation,” American forward Dustin Brown said.

Pavelski will likely center a line with Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk when the U.S. team opens the Sochi Games on Thursday against Slovakia. He may also move to the wing, a position he plays sometimes for the San Jose Sharks. And on special teams, Pavelski may be on the point or closer to the net for power plays and he’ll usually be on the ice as a penalty-killer.

Coach Dan Bylsma said no one wearing the red, white and blue is more versatile.

“It’s a huge for us,” Bylsma said. “You can expect to see him in all those positions in this tournament.”

When the Brian Burke-led management team was putting together its roster for the 2010 Olympics, Pavelski was given one of the final spots ahead of players such as Scott Gomez. He was in the lineup for all six games at the Vancouver Games and had three assists.

“We picked Joe four years ago because he’s like a Swiss Army knife with so many functions,” said Brian, who is now the U.S. team’s associate general manager. “And he’s much better offensively now.

“He doesn’t get much ink because of some of the other players we have here and because he plays with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in San Jose.”

The 29-year-old Pavelski has scored 29 times this season - once more than Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby - and is quietly tied for fourth in the NHL. He is three goals away from surpassing his career high with 23 games remaining in his eighth NHL season.

“We’ve got a good team in San Jose, so there’s a lot of guys that fly under the radar for us and play a good role,” he said. “You just try to help out the team in any situation you’re in.”

The U.S. team is filled with players who were expected to be good since they were teenagers.

Pavelski, who is from Plover, Wis., as developed into one of the league’s better players after being drafted in the seventh round - 205th overall - in 2003. No one on the Americans’ team was drafted later than him.

At these Olympics, he may not be overlooked by the end of next week.

“He’s a big-game player,” U.S. captain Zach Parise said. “He’s so versatile. On any line he plays on, he makes guys better. He does so many things right whether he’s scoring or not. You’re comfortable having him on the ice whether you need someone to score a goal or make a defensive play because he can make plays on the whole sheet. He’s tough to play against, so it’s great to play with him.”


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