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Gionta begins practicing with Amerks to get ready for USA Hockey

Brian Gionta wants to represent the United States as best he can. Skating with the hometown Rochester Americans gives him an opportunity to stay in shape, and he started practicing with Tuesday.

The former Sabres captain also wants to avoid being a disruption. That's why he'll disappear on game days.

"Game days I'll try to be out of their space, out of their way," Gionta told reporters in Rochester after practice. "I grew up in the league that game days are a special thing, and you don't want to mess with guys' routines and get in the way at all. One of the things of not being a distraction is trying to stay out of their way."

The 38-year-old will likely represent the United States at the Olympics in February. He can't just step on the ice and compete against the best non-NHL players in the world, so he's going to work out in Rochester.

"It's a good thing for myself to stay in shape and to stay active and be practicing," Gionta said. "I think I can provide some things to the young guys in coming out and practicing and working with the young guys out there.

"I think they talked with their leadership group to make sure everything would be good, and I think the guys in the room have been great so far."

Gionta reiterated that he had interest from NHL teams, but the desire to stay local was a bigger factor. He has three kids ranging from elementary- to middle-school age. Not playing in the NHL also allows him to be considered for the Olympics.

"It's no secret I had some opportunities out there that with the family situation we weren't willing to make that change," Gionta said. "With three kids and the ages they're at, some things are tough, so we made some hard decisions. With that come other opportunities and decisions to be made."

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