Hockey fans are in for a David vs. Goliath Olympics matchup on Thursday when Canada takes on Norway at 12 p.m ET in Sochi.
Canada won gold four years ago, much to the delight of the home crowd in Vancouver, another in 2002 (Salt Lake City) and a total of eight since 1920. Norway, on the other hand, has never won a single medal of any color and isn't expected to challenge for a medal in 2014.
While Canada is favored to win—by a long shot—all it takes is one magical performance by Norway to engineer a monumental upset. Underdogs have put top dogs down in the Olympics before, and this dynamic is one of the reasons so many appreciate sports in the first place.
With that in mind, here's what you need to know about the upcoming battle.
When: Thursday, Feb. 13, at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi, Russia
Watch: USA Network
Live Streaming: NBC Olympics Live Extra
Will Norway Be Able to Slow Down Canada's Potent Offense?
Canada's Olympic roster is loaded with superstars across the board, and the team's offense is particularly intimidating.
Though Norway only has one player on its roster currently competing in the NHL, this team will give Canada all it can handle on the ice, according to head coach Mike Babcock, as noted by Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press (via CTVNews.ca):
They're an aggressive team, they play real well and real hard. They're going to give us a handful. They're used to this ice, we're not. We'll get adjusted over time. But we have to grow our game, and it's not about them, it's about us. I'd be saying that no matter who we play.
However, with Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Ryan Getzlaf and Patrice Bergeron leading the way up front offensively, Canadian fans will surely have plenty of opportunities to cheer when their team takes on the Norwegians on Thursday.
Prediction: Canada Wins, 4-1
No doubt Norway will put up a valiant fight, but talent matters in these contests, and Canada's got a huge edge in this department.
Chris Peters of CBS Sports puts it like this:
The only way Canada doesn't make it to the latter stages of this tournament is if it can't figure out a way through the traps that will be run against them on the big ice or the goaltending is laughably bad. It won't be a cake walk by any means, but this is the best team in the tournament on paper.
Which team will win?
Babcock is a bit concerned about a rough start, per Whyno, saying his team will likely be a "work in progress," given the lack of practice time leading up to the Games.
That said, even if Canada comes out a bit rough around the edges, the team's offensive playmakers will make up for the lack of cohesion.
It should be an easy win for the Canadians.
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