Predicting Which Detroit Red Wings Will Play in 2014 Winter Olympics
When "the Detroit Red Wings" and "Olympic Hockey" are mentioned in the same sentence, there is usually some mention of Team Sweden, as the Red Wings are notorious for having an exceptional amount of players represented on the Swedish Olympic hockey team.
This year will be no different, but there are also some up-and-coming players that will look to crack rosters of other countries as well.
Some, like Russia's Pavel Datsyuk, are obvious locks, but others will require a little bit more effort to cement their spot at Sochi in 2014.
So exactly which Red Wings will be playing for their respective countries in the 2014 Winter Olympics?
Pavel Datsyuk, Russia
Pavel Datsyuk is a shoo-in for Team Russia's squad and will likely play either the No. 1 or No. 2 center position, depending on where Evgeni Malkin ends up.
If Russia wanted to load up, it could even put Datsyuk at center and Malkin on the wing. Either way, they would make for a formidable duo that would give other head coaches headaches trying to counter.
Datsyuk has 23 points in 24 games and would likely have more points and games played if it weren't for a concussion that has kept him out of the lineup recently.
If the 35-year-old Russian does not encounter any more injury problems, he is a lock for the Russian Olympic squad.
Tomas Tatar, Slovakia
Tomas Tatar has played for his native Slovakia twice at World Junior Championships and twice at the World Championships, but he was only 19 years old during the 2010 Olympic Games.
This time, Tatar should get the call to his national team to represent Slovakia at the Olympics.
In his past four games, Tatar has three goals and two assists.
Though Tatar has played four more games than Gaborik, his breakthrough over those past four games should vault him onto Slovakia's Olympic roster.
Henrik Zetterberg, Sweden
To say Team Sweden owed the Detroit Red Wings or vice versa would be implying the obvious. The Red Wings, usually loaded with Swedes, are no different this year.
Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg should be representing his country come February, assuming his lingering back issues allow him to do so.
Zetterberg's 11 goals and 30 points in 28 games lead the Detroit Red Wings and put him second in points in the NHL among Swedes, with Alex Steen being the lone Swede ahead of him in that regard.
Although Zetterberg plays well at either center or on the wing, Zetterberg's superior 50.8 faceoff percentage would likely lead to him playing center and Steen and his 47.5 faceoff percentage on the wing.
Daniel Alfredsson, Sweden
Quick! Tell Daniel Alfredsson that he is turning 41 in less than a week and should quit playing like he is in the prime of his career.
The four-time Olympian will be a strong candidate to play in his fifth Olympics when Team Sweden selects its roster for Sochi.
Alfredsson has seven goals and 15 assists in 26 contests this season with the Detroit Red Wings and could have his first 70-point season since 2009-10.
The long-time Ottawa Senators captain could decide to opt out of the Olympics if he feels that his aging body isn't up for the challenge, though.
This is because Alfredsson came to Detroit to win a Stanley Cup for the first time in his career. If Alfie thinks it would be a better bet to rest over the Olympic break instead of giving it a go in the Olympics, he could decline his invitation for the chance to rest up for the stretch run of the NHL season.
Nevertheless, if the desire to play is there, the roster spot should be his to claim.
Niklas Kronwall, Sweden
Niklas Kronwall is in a position to suit up for his third Olympics with his stellar play to start the season.
Kronwall's 21 points in 27 games and his ability to munch big-time minutes on the blue line have given him the upper hand in the battle for top-pairing defensemen at Sochi.
The Red Wings' assistant captain could be paired with Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators to form one of the most lethal power plays in the Olympics as a whole.
Kronwall will be looked to for his toughness in the corners, but he has shown that he can do more than his fair share offensively, as his 0.77 points-per-game pace puts him more than on track to eclipse his career high of 51 points.
Johan Franzen, Sweden
The Detroit Red Wings had a problem at the start of the season in the fact that the team lacked secondary scoring past the top line and Niklas Kronwall.
Changes were made, and Johan Franzen eventually showed up. But Franzen has not just shown up, he has dominated over the past five games with eight points over that span and at least one point in each of those games.
Speaking of streaks, Franzen has points in nine of his last 11 games with 14 points over that span.
Team Sweden will look for The Mule to continue his scoring and be a net-front presence in Sochi, where Franzen will partake in his second Olympics.
Possibly: Jonathan Ericsson, Sweden
Jonathan Ericsson is having a strong season, despite putting up just seven points in 19 games played.
Injuries have partially derailed his season, but he still has an outside shot at challenging for one of the last defenseman spots on Team Sweden.
Quite a few dominoes would have to fall his way, but a ticket to Sochi wouldn't be out of the question for him. One such domino falling the right direction for Ericsson would be the abstention of Tobias Enstrom from the Olympics.
Enstrom stated via NHL.com that he "felt that [he wanted] to focus on Winnipeg here and the team and really push for the playoffs...to take that time to rest and just be healthy."
If Ericsson can have a good month of December and maybe show some more offensive upside, he could beat out another player or two and crack the roster.
As of right now, with Enstrom out of the picture, Ericsson is 10th in points by Swedish defensemen and also sixth in ice time per game.
When it comes to shorthanded ice time per game, however, Ericsson ranks second with three minutes and 19 seconds.
Should the decision come down to special teams, specifically the penalty kill, Ericsson could end up playing in Sochi for his homeland in his first-ever Olympics.
Possibly: Jimmy Howard, USA
Red Wings fans would likely jump all over this slideshow if Jimmy Howard was not included somewhere.
However, the simple fact is that Jimmy Howard has not done himself any favors this season as far as getting the nod as an Olympic goalie is concerned.
Howard's usually steady self has been all over the map this season, resulting in a 6-8-6 record with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
Howard does have two wins by shutout this season, but unfortunately, those seem to be the exception rather than the norm.
The 29-year-old American will need a stellar month of December to even be considered for a roster spot, let alone the starting goalie position. Howard will have to one-up Ben Bishop, Craig Anderson, Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas for a chance at the starting or backup goaltender spot.
His inclusion on the Olympic roster at this point seems doubtful at best.
All statistics via NHL.com.