i dont know
is standard img a good choice?
of the one linked to its the smallest one.
you got more choices with live-helper (for example standard-X11, minimal, etc).
the easist way to put it on a stick would be creating a seperate partition (say in virtualbox) and install debian without desktop-environment on it.
then configure it the way you want it (as you say you need a small one:remove everything you dont want).
then instlall live-helper and run as root in a directory you want (say ~/usb_stick):
lh_config -b usb-hdd --bootstrap copy --debian-installer live
and than put the image on the stick:
dd if=debian***.img of=$USBDRV
"--debian-installer live" adds the installer, if you dont need it, dont use it.
i put it on a stick with that method (-b usb-hdd)
and i created a copy of my system with that method ( --bootstrap)
i dont know if both methods work hand in hand, but see no problems right know.
the example images for live-helper are in /usr/share/live-helper/lists
i think an:
lh_config -b usb-hdd
will give you a pretty small image for a stick too, but am not sure.