Olympic Hockey 2014: Stars to Watch in Men's Gold-Medal Matchup

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Olympic Hockey 2014: Stars to Watch in Men's Gold-Medal Matchup
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The soaring Canada and Sweden will take center ice in Sochi's gold-medal battle to conclude the 2014 Winter Olympics.

It may not be the slate U.S. fans wanted, and the hosting nation can't be thrilled to miss the medal games altogether. But Canada and Sweden are two deserving entrants heading into the final tilt with a full head of steam. Each country powered through its opening five bouts without a loss blemishing its record.

After Canada disposed of the U.S. and Sweden rallied to top Finland, the two undefeated clubs will meet with gold on the line. Canada can repeat its 2010 title and sweep both hockey events, while Sweden can capture its second title in the past three Winter Games.

While injures to Canada's John Tavares and Sweden's Henrik Zetterberg rob the match of some star power, several NHL stars will still represent their homes in a battle for hockey supremacy. These are some of the biggest stars on tap.

 

When: Sunday, February 23 at 7 a.m. ET

Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome, Sochi, Russia

TV: NBC

Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com

 

Sidney Crosby, Canada

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On paper, Sidney Crosby is not enjoying his best stretch of hockey during the Olympics.

He has yet to score a goal and has collected two assists, a modest total for a superstar of his caliber. Yet his unselfish play has helped fuel Canada to the finals, and his teammates appreciate his efforts even without the gaudy numbers to back it up.

Patrice Bergeron, who has been a pivotal part of Canada' run, spoke highly of his Olympic teammate to CTV Atlantic News' Neil Davidson.

"I thought last game he was tremendous as well," Bergeron said. "But he's the best player in the world. I'm just happy and fortunate to be playing with him, trying to help him as much as I can."

Alex Livesey/Getty Images

For as well as Canada has played this tournament, it has tallied just four goals in the last three games. While intangibles are nice, tangible points from Crosby—like the goal he scored in overtime to win the gold-medal bout four years ago—would surely help out his country.

Given his opponent, points will come at a premium on Sunday.

 

Henrik Lundqvist, Sweden

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For Sweden to pull off the upset, Henrik Lundqvist will need to have himself a terrific day shielding the net.

Jonathan Quick attempted to carry the United States to victory in the semifinals, but the one shot out of 37 he failed to corral proved one too many. As Canada's front line dominated, Quick's quick reflexes were the only thing keeping Team USA alive.

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Sweden will need a similar effort from its goalie, New York Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist. So far, the 31-year-old has done everything in his power to keep the Swedes afloat.

Through five games, opponents have mustered six goals against Sweden's squad. Against Finland, the three-time All-Star notched 25 saves, shutting the door after surrendering the game's first score. 

Sweden's stout defense deserves credit as well, but Canada is bound to get its chances with Crosby and Bergeron leading the fold. The final barrier blocking Canada's hunt for gold, Lundqvist must deliver a rousing effort on the big stage.

 

Carey Price, Canada

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Canada has a pretty good goalie on its side as well.

Montreal Canadians' star Carey Price won the starting job over veteran Roberto Luongo, who guarded the net during the 2010 Olympics. The 26-year-old has rewarded coach Mike Babcock for making the tough decision, allowing just three goals in Sochi

The National Post's Bruce Arthur utilized Twitter to provide some succinct analysis.

He has been tested throughout the season, ranking second in the NHL with 1,350 saves and four shutouts. With no room for error in the semifinals, he kept the U.S. off the scoreboard for the full 60 minutes during a 1-0 victory.

If the big-time goalie can muster up one more big-time performance, Canada will solidify its hockey dominance with another gold medal.

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