Pavelski named Team USA captain, has huge responsibility as first-line center

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Joe Pavelski will captain Team USA at the World Cup. Patrick Kane and Ryan Suter will be the alternates.

Pavelski, 32, is coming off a fantastic 2015-16 for the Sharks. He had 38 goals during the regular season, then added 14 more in the playoffs as San Jose made it first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

In pre-tournament practice, Pavelski has been centering wingers Kane and Max Pacioretty on Team USA’s first line.

Suffice to say, centering the first line is a huge responsibility for the Wisconsin native — especially on a team that many feel is lacking down the middle, at least compared to the favorites from Canada.

“The fairly obvious biggest thing is the middle doesn’t have the top [guys],” USA GM Dean Lombardi conceded in an interview with ESPN.com. “That said, a guy like Joe Pavelski is one of the top players. He finally got his recognition this year. If you were playing against him, you know how good this guy is. It’s not totally fair to say this guy is not a No. 1 center.”

Team USA opens its pre-tournament schedule Friday versus Canada in Columbus.