Julio Cortez/Associated Press
How will Jonathan Quick play?
Thanks to IIHF scheduling, the Americans start the tournament off with a difficult game, which means that the goalie identified as the team's starter over the course of the tournament is likely to play on Thursday. Jonathan Quick has been chosen for the start over Ryan Miller—something I have argued is a mistake—but with two strong goalies, he's only going to keep playing if he plays well, so he needs a good showing.
Can Slovakia run with the big boys?
The Slovaks have proven themselves capable of surprising performances in previous tournaments. In 2010, Canada beat them in the semifinals by only a single goal, and if things had gone the other way, the United States would have faced Slovakia for the gold medal. Starting the tournament off with a win over the Americans would go a long way toward assuring Slovakia of a berth in the quarterfinals, while a hard-fought loss would show once again that the team can challenge anyone.
How will the Americans look on the big ice?
This first game will set the tone for Team USA, with a loss starting the team off behind the eight ball in a very difficult group and a win showing a quick adaptation to playing in Sochi.
U.S. coach Dan Bylsma hinted the keys to success for his team, per Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
There are certain things about the international game, the big ice, that are different. We have to take that into consideration. We want to move quickly, but we have to be more careful with the puck. We have to play a more patient game, not miss on long stretch passes and that sort of thing because of the width of the rink.