Day 9 of the 2014 Winter Olympics will present hockey fans with a number of crucial clashes, as much has yet to be determined as far as seeding is concerned.
Today, we'll see three medal favorites take the ice in hopes of securing a bye to the quarterfinal round—because in a short tournament such as this, every team's grateful for an extra day's rest.
And, following Slovenia's defeat of Slovakia, as well as Sweden's narrow triumph over Switzerland, it's become clear that virtually any team is capable of coming away with a win on any given day.
Heading into Day 9's full slate of pivotal showdowns, here's a look at everything you'll need to know to catch all the action, complete with predictions and breakdowns of the biggest games on tap.
|2014 Olympic Hockey Schedule: Day 9|
|Time (ET)||Tournament||Matchup||Watch||Predicted Winner|
|3 a.m.||Men||Austria vs. Norway||USA; NBC Sports Live Extra||Austria|
|7:30 a.m.||Men||Russia vs. Slovakia||USA; NBC Sports Live Extra||Russia|
|7:30 a.m.||Men||USA vs. Slovenia||NBCSN; NBC Sports Live Extra||USA|
|Noon||Men||Canada vs. Finland||USA: NBC Sports Live Extra||Canada|
Russia vs. Slovakia
If Marian Gaborik was in the picture, this game could have had at least a inkling of upset potential.
But without Gaborik, Marian Hossa is Slovakia's lone top-flight scoring threat, and against a team with no less than six elite offensive talents, the visitors will be overwhelmed.
With Jaroslav Halak in net and Zdeno Chara patrolling the blue line, the Slovaks may have enough to provide some resistance, but it seems unlikely that they'll be able to silence Russia's big guns.
Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Semin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk are as dangerous as any top six in this tournament, and after the rather porous defensive showings against Slovenia and the United States, Slovakia will need something close to a miracle to take down the Russians.
Russia was upset by Slovakia in 2010, but that won't happen again in Sochi.
Prediction: Russia 6, Slovakia 3
Slovenia vs. USA
Slovenia's 3-1 victory over a heavily favored Slovakian squad was a shocker, as the Slovaks boast a far more impressive roster.
However, despite featuring just one NHL player—L.A. Kings star Anze Kopitar—Slovenia landed a major upset. Still, this team will have to settle for a 1-2 record in group play.
The U.S. absolutely dismantled Slovakia, and with a bevy of NHL All-Stars up front, as well as arguably the best goaltending tandem at the Games, this one won't be close.
Slovenia put up a good fight against Russia, but the Americans' blend of physicality, size and speed will present the underdogs with a much different challenge.
Dan Bylsma's defense is stocked with puck-moving rearguards, and they'll be pivotal in capitalizing on the U.S.' distinct advantage in skill and scoring.
Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and the rest of the team's offensive weapons came to life against Slovakia, and you can expect the same against a very overmatched Slovenian group.
Prediction: USA 5, Slovenia 1
Finland vs. Canada
Canada's been a bit of a mystery thus far, as Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and company seemed nervous against Norway but looked like a juggernaut against Austria.
Despite the Canadians featuring two elite goalies in Roberto Luongo and Carey Price, Finland's got the clear upper hand in net: Canada's three goaltenders have a combined zero Stanley Cup rings, while Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask each have one.
Fortunately for the reigning Olympic champs, the absences of Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula make this team a much less imposing opponent, and Canada's deep, balanced attack will wear the Finns down.
Finland usually keeps things tight against Canada, but even with great goaltending, there's just too large of a mismatch as far as talent goals.
Prediction: Canada 3, Finland 1