EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – New Jersey Devils defenceman Paul Martin will not play for the United States in the Vancouver Olympics because of a slow-healing broken left forearm.
A disappointed Martin announced Monday that he was withdrawing his name from the U.S. team.
The defenceman was injured on Oct. 24 in a game at Pittsburgh when he was hit by Bill Guerin’s shot. Martin had a setback in his recovery in December when surgery had to be done because the fracture didn’t heal at the rate doctors wanted.
Martin skated on his own last week and was told by doctors on Monday that he would have to wear his cast another two weeks.
“It is healing properly, it’s just not to the point where the doctor wants to see it,” Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
The United States will play its first Olympic game against Switzerland on Feb. 16, which means Martin wouldn’t have been able to play before the Games started.
A replacement will likely be picked by the end of this week, USA Hockey spokesman Dave Fischer said. Potential candidates include Atlanta’s Ron Hainsey, Los Angeles’ Rob Scuderi, Ryan Whitney of the Anaheim Ducks, and Carolina’s Tim Gleason.
Martin might not be the only U.S. defenceman to miss the Olympics. The status of Toronto’s Mike Komisarek has become questionable because he has been out since Jan. 2 with a shoulder injury. Teams can pick replacements until Feb. 15.
The Olympic appearance would have been a first for Martin, who was on the taxi squad four years ago. That is probably why he waited so long before withdrawing.
“While the decision was an extremely difficult one, I feel it is in my long-term best interest to not rush any return to the ice,” said the 28-year-old Martin, who led Devils defencemen in assists and points last season.
Lamoriello said Martin, who has played in only nine games this season, should be ready for action when the Devils take a West Coast trip in early March after the NHL Olympic break. New Jersey is now in a season-worst 3-6-1 slide.
“I look forward to rejoining my New Jersey Devil teammates in the near future, and would also like to wish my fellow Devils’ Olympians and the rest of Team USA good luck in their pursuit of the gold medal,” Martin said.
Five other Devils players are going to the Olympics. Right wing Jamie Langenbrunner is the captain of the U.S. team, and left wing Zach Parise is an alternate captain for the American squad.
Goaltender Martin Brodeur is one of the stars of Canada. Center Patrik Elias, who has missed the last eight games with a concussion, is the captain of the Czech Republic squad, and defenceman Johnny Oduya will play for Sweden.
Langenbrunner is hoping to enjoy this Olympics more than his other trip to Nagano in 1998. He was a last minute substitute for Shawn McEachern (back problems) and he didn’t arrive until after the United States had played its first game.
The trip was also complicated because his wife was home, nine months pregnant, getting ready to deliver their first child.
This time, his family and brothers will be joining him in Vancouver. Langenbrunner knows he will have more responsibility this time around.
“I was coming into a team with Pat LaFontaine and Brett Hull and Brian Leetch and I was more in awe walking into that dressing room than anything,” Langenbrunner said Monday after participating in an optional skate before the Devils travelled to Toronto.
“I can remember calling home and saying, ‘I can’t believe who I am sitting next to in the locker-room,”‘ Langenbrunner recalled. “This time I feel more comfortable, especially going through the orientation camp and being around everybody, not that I know everybody well, but at least you know faces and have an idea about them.”
Langenbrunner has high expectations for the United States in the tournament where many predict the host Canadians to capture gold.
“I am expecting to win the gold medal,” Langenbrunner said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t. I am pretty sure that all 23 guys play in the same league as the guys on the other teams and compete with them on a nightly basis. I understand why certain people put certain teams in certain spots but I think in our minds going there to win should be the only thing.”