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Preview, Prediction for Each Carolina Hurricanes Player at 2014 Winter Olympics

Mark JonesSenior Analyst IFebruary 11, 2014

Preview, Prediction for Each Carolina Hurricanes Player at 2014 Winter Olympics

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The Carolina Hurricanes will be represented by four athletes in the Men's Hockey tournament of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

    The Hurricanes' top defensive pairing of Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera will skate for the United States and Slovakia, respectively, while experienced winger Tuomo Ruutu rejoins Finland and last-second Team Russia addition Alexander Semin returns to his home nation.

    Faulk, Sekera and Semin are all guaranteed head-to-head meetings, as Russia, Slovakia and USA (as well as Slovenia) compose the highly competitive Group A. The full Group Stage layout is below:

    Group AGroup BGroup C
    RussiaFinlandCzech Republic
    USAAustriaSweden
    SlovakiaCanadaLatvia
    SloveniaNorwaySwitzerland

    Teams earn three points for a regulation win, two points for an overtime win, one point for an overtime loss and zero points for a regulation loss.

    The three group winners and one additional team will receive byes in the first round of the elimination stage.

    Of the four Hurricanes participating, only Faulk will be experiencing his first Olympic hockey. Ruutu earned the Bronze Medal in Vancouver in 2010, while Sekera and Semin both also took part—at the time, representing the Sabres and Capitals, respectively.

    Where will each 'Cane Olympian fit on his country's roster? How far can they each be expected to go in the tournament? When can fans watch them on Sochi ice from their N.C. televisions? 

    A full preview for each Carolina Hurricane at the 2014 Olympics lies on the coming slides.

    Note: Tape delays of select games will be replayed at 1 pm ET and 3 pm ET each day on NBCSN.

Justin Faulk (D, USA)

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Group Stage Schedule

    Thurs, Feb. 13, 7:30 am ET: USA vs. Slovakia (NBCSN)

    Sat, Feb. 15, 7:30 am ET: USA vs. Russia (NBCSN)

    Sun, Feb. 17, 7:30 am ET: USA vs. Slovenia (NBCSN)

    Tape delays of select games will be replayed at 1 pm ET and 3 pm ET the following day on NBCSN.

     

    Faulk's Role

    Long considered a bubble player for Team USA's roster, the exclusive behind-the-scenes feature on the team selection by ESPN's Scott Burnside revealed Faulk's inclusion to have been a non-debate.

    2014 will be the 21-year-old defenseman's first Olympic experience. Faulk did, however, play for Team USA in both the 2012 and 2013 World Championships. He was paired with 33-year-old veteran Brooks Orpik at Monday's practice, then shifted to fellow youngster Cam Fowler on Tuesday

    Expect the Minnesota native to enjoy steadily increasing ice time as the tournament progresses and he grows comfortable on international ice.

     

    USA Outlook

    Team USA is faced with high expectations as they seek their third gold-medal game appearance in the past four Olympics and their first win in it.

    However, this year's team is vastly different—younger and perhaps shallower—than 2010's silver medal-winning squad. Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller compose the tournament's best goaltending duo, but the US may not have the guns to keep up with two stacked Russian and Canadian teams.

    With matches against a dark horse of the tournament (Slovakia) and the hungry host country (Russia) to kick off the quest for gold, the USA should learn a lot about where they stand in short order.

     

    Prediction 

    5 pts. (1-1-0-1) in Group Stage, lose bronze medal game (4th place).

Andrej Sekera (D, Slovakia)

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Group Stage Schedule

    Thurs, Feb. 13, 7:30 am ET: Slovakia vs. USA (NBCSN)

    Sat, Feb. 15, 3 am ET: Slovakia vs. Slovenia (MSNBC)

    Sun, Feb. 16, 7:30 am ET: Slovakia vs. Russia (USA)

    Tape delays of select games will be replayed at 1 pm ET and 3 pm ET the following day on NBCSN.

     

    Sekera's Role

    With Lubomir Visnovsky off the roster due to injury, Andrej Sekera will be paired with team captain Zdeno Chara to form the Slovaks' top defensive pairing.

    Sekera, 27, is used to playing big minutes—he's averaged 23:33 per game this season with the 'Canes—and will likely need that endurance more than ever in the Olympics. Slovakia sports just one other regular NHL defenseman (Philadelphia's Andrej Meszaros) and could rely on the Sekera-Chara pairing to carry 25-30 minutes per game.

    The coming chance should be a glorious opportunity for Sekera to capture a spotlight on hockey's biggest stage.

     

    Slovakia Outlook

    Slovakia is a growing power in men's hockey and has a number of upper-tier stars on the top of their depth chart (Marian Hossa, Jaroslav Halak and Chara, to name a few).

    Unfortunately, they've been dealt a difficult path to success this year. Both Visnovsky and Marian Gaborik are out with health concerns, dealing a major blow to the nation's star power. Meanwhile, they'll have to take on both USA and Russia in Group A, all but eliminating any hopes for a first-round bye coming out of the group stage.

     

    Prediction

    4 pts. (1-0-1-1) in Group Stage, lose in quarterfinals.

Alexander Semin (RW, Russia)

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Group Stage Schedule:

    Thurs, Feb. 13, 7:30 am ET: Russia vs. Slovenia (MSNBC)

    Sat, Feb. 15, 7:30 am ET: Russia vs. USA (NBCSN)

    Sun, Feb. 16, 7:30 am ET: Russia vs. Slovakia (USA)

    Tape delays of select games will be replayed at 1 pm ET and 3 pm ET the following day on NBCSN.

     

    Semin's Role

    Controversy surrounded Semin's initial exclusion from Team Russia, but an injury to KHL star Sergei Soin in late January gave the 29-year-old winger a ticket to play for his country on its own soil.

    Now, it appears that the Krasnoyarsk native could play a bigger role than ever imagined. With Pavel Datsyuk currently sidelined by injury and questionable for Russia's opener on Thursday, coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov grouped Semin with worldwide superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin during Monday's practice.

    Semin tallied two assists in four appearances for Russia during the 2010 Olympics. If he remains with Ovechkin and Malkin for any significant time this year, his scoring totals could be a lot more prolific this winter.

     

    Russia Outlook

    The Russians haven't won gold in men's hockey since taking seven of eight between 1964 and 1992. With the bitterness of their disappointing sixth-place finish in Vancouver still lingering in many mouths, they'll be more driven than ever to take the gold in Sochi.

    Defense could be an Achilles' heel, since the nation has a number of NHL regulars (Andrei Markov and Slava Voynov headline the crew) but no true No. 1 blueliner.

    Sergei Bobrovsky will be tough to beat in goal, though, and an offensive cast led by not just Ovechkin, Malkin, Datsyuk and Semin but also former NHL enigmas Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Radulov could well be the most explosive in the tournament.

     

    Prediction

    9 pts. (3-0-0-0) in Group Stage, lose in gold medal game.

Tuomo Ruutu (LW, Finland)

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Group Stage Schedule

    Thurs, Feb. 13, 3 am ET: Finland vs. Austria (NBCSN)

    Fri, Feb. 14, 12 pm ET: Finland vs. Norway (MSNBC)

    Sun, Feb. 17, 12 pm ET: Finland vs. Canada (USA)

    Tape delays of select games will be replayed at 1 pm ET and 3 pm ET the following day on NBCSN.

     

    Ruutu's Role

    Somewhat of a surprise to make the Finnish roster after a terrible first half of the 2013-14 NHL season, Ruutu's play improved for the 'Canes in January and he'll enter the Olympics riding high. 

    The Finnish offensive lines are largely uncertain for the moment. Ruutu does have the experience of six games in Finland's 2010 Bronze Medal campaign, as well as a Carolina connection with former 'Canes winger Jussi Jokinen going for him. He could compete with KHL superstar Leo Komarov for a second line position alongside Jussi and Olli Jokinen.

    It's likely that Ruutu will fill the same checking winger role in Sochi that he's filled for years in Raleigh.

     

    Finland Outlook

    Another squad whose original projected lineup has been ravaged by injuries—neither Mikko Koivu or Valterri Filppula made the trip—Finland could be hard-pressed to repeat their 2010 success.

    Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times reports that coach Erkka Westerlund will go with an unexpected first line of Aleksander Barkov, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund for the opener against Austria. The Finns have solid depth but little game-breaking ability up front. Olli Maatta could be an X-factor on their Kimmo Timonen- and Sami Salo-led defense.

    The majority of Finland's medal hopes seem to rest on star goaltender Tuukka Rask.

     

    Prediction

    6 pts. (2-0-0-1) in Group Stage, lose in quarterfinals.

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