Canada kicks off its defence of Olympic gold at the 2014 Winter Olympics against a team that very few expect will be able to play in a medal game.
It's a David vs. Goliath battle. Norway qualified for its first Olympics since 1994 in 2010, and it was a major victory for that country not to have to play in a qualification round in order to participate at Sochi. On the other hand, Canada has won two of the four Olympic hockey tournaments that have featured NHL players.
Can the Norwegians put in a competitive showing? How will Canada look in its first game of the tournament? Read on for starting lineups, viewing information and more.
Statistics courtesy of Elite Prospects.com and current through Feb. 11 unless otherwise noted.
The game starts at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time and will be both streamed and broadcast live in the United States and Canada. In Canada, viewers can watch live on CBC or see a repeat playing at 7:30 p.m. on TSN, while in the United States, the USA Network will carry the contest live.
Who starts for Team Canada?
Canadian head coach Mike Babcock has kept silent about his goaltending plans for the tournament, and either Roberto Luongo or Carey Price could end up in the No. 1 role. The expectation is that the back-to-back games will be split, but it seems probable that the expected starter will get the first game of the Olympics.
Can Norway be competitive?
Norway enters this tournament as heavy underdogs, and a strong showing against the Canadians will go a long way toward showing it can be more than a speed-bump at these games. Of course, to prove that, Norway needs to manage a strong showing against a team with much, much more talent.
How will Canada look in its first international game?
Most of the concern surrounding the Canadian entry is directed at the team's ability to transition to the big ice. Norway isn't much of a test (at least on paper), but this will be Canada's first chance to see its team.
- Chris Kunitz—Sidney Crosby—Jeff Carter
- Patrick Sharp—Jonathan Toews—Rick Nash
- Patrick Marleau—Ryan Getzlaf—Corey Perry
- Jamie Benn—John Tavares—Patrice Bergeron
- Matt Duchene, Martin St. Louis
- Duncan Keith—Shea Weber
- Jay Bouwmeester—Alex Pietrangelo
- Marc-Edouard Vlasic—Drew Doughty
- Dan Hamhuis, P.K Subban
- Roberto Luongo
- Carey Price
- Mike Smith
- Per-Age Skroder—Patrick Thoresen—Mats Zuccarello
- Mathis Olimb—Anders Bastiansen—Ken Andre Olimb
- Martin Roymark—Kristian Forsberg—Marius Holtet
- Robin Dahlstrom—Mads Hansen—Mats Rosseli Olsen
- Sondre Olden, Niklas Roest, Morten Ask
- Ole-Kristian Tollefsen—Mats Trygg
- Alexander Bonsaksen—Jonas Holos
- Henrik Solberg—Henrik Odegaard
- Daniel Sorvik
- Lars Haugen
- Lars Volden
- Steffen Soberg
Sidney Crosby, Canada
Crosby will be taking on the toughest available minutes when Canada starts facing more respected teams, so this game represents an important warm-up for him on Olympic ice.
Patrick Thoresen, Norway
The centre/left wing is one of the few players on the Norwegian team with NHL experience, and he has also been, roughly speaking, point-per-game player over the last five KHL seasons. He will be one of the few forwards on the team capable of producing offence against Olympic competition.
Mats Zuccarello, Norway
The diminutive Zuccarello has 15 goals and 43 points this season for the New York Rangers and had three points in four games for Norway at the 2010 Olympics. Like Thoresen, he will be expected to help carry the offence.
On the one side, Canada will opt for one of two elite NHL goalies. Roberto Luongo and Carey Price are both proven starting options at hockey's highest level, and while neither is expected to be the best goalie in the tournament, both are solid Olympic options.
On the other side, Lars Haugen lacks NHL experience, but in the last few years, he has graduated into a competent goaltender in the high-level KHL. He has a .910 save percentage in that league over 23 games this year after posting a .933 save percentage last season. He's also posted respectable totals at the last three World Championships.
Canada and Norway have played one game against each other at the Olympics since the NHL started sending players to the tournament.
It was an 8-0 blowout for the Canadian side, via IIHF.com, with the shots 42-15 for Canada. Goaltender Pal Grotnes was able to hold the Canadians to four goals through three-quarters of an hour, but he was eventually pulled in favour of Andre Lysenstoen, who stopped just six of 10 shots faced.
For Norway to have any chance, projected starter Lars Haugen needs to put on a superhuman performance.
As we mentioned in the last slide, Canada convincingly routed the Norwegians the last time the two teams played, and that's the expectation this time as well. Every single member of the Canadian team, including its spares, would be franchise-level talents on Team Norway.
Given the imbalance, if Canada shows up and plays even a middling contest, this one should not be close.
Expect a big win for Team Canada. The Norwegians lost 8-0 to Canada the last time out and then fell 6-1 to the Americans. Mitigating factors include better goaltending (it's likely Canada would have been held to fewer goals had Norway not switched 'keepers) and Canada not playing on home soil.
Predicted score: Canada 7 - Norway 1.
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