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Olympic hockey: Group A breakdown

02.16.10 at 11:05 am ET
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The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics hockey tournament starts at 3 p.m. (ET) on Tuesday at Canada Hockey Place with Team USA taking on Switzerland to begin the Group A preliminary round robin. Throughout the day, we will present short bios of the teams in each group, starting with Group A, where the United States and Canada continue a long international rivalry.

Note: After the preliminary round, each of the 12 teams will be ranked on the basis of points. The top four teams advance to the quarterfinals, with the remaining teams playing to advance.

Schedule (All times ET)

Feb. 16 — USA vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 16 — Canada vs. Norway, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18 — USA vs. Norway, 3 p.m.

Feb. 18 — Canada vs. Switzerland, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 — Norway vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m.

Feb. 21 — Canada vs. USA, 7:40 p.m.

United States

Captain — Jamie Langenbrunner

Assistant captains — Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Ryan Suter, Brian Rafalski

Goaltenders — Tim Thomas, Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick

Players to Watch — Phil Kessel, Chris Drury, Patrick Kane

Bruins on the roster — Thomas

Breakdown — Team USA’s strength is between the pipes. The Sabres’ Miller is likely to get most of the starts for the Americans, but any one of the three goaltenders can get hot and carry the team into the medal round. Drury was a standout at Boston University, where he helped the Terriers to a national championship in 1995. This will be his third Olympic games. Kane and Kessel could give the team some offensive pop, but to stand up to the likes of Russia and Canada the Americans will have to be able to keep pucks out of the net. Team USA definitely has talent, but it may not be enough to propel it to its first gold medal since the 1980 Miracle on Ice, the only other time Team USA took first aside from the 1960 Forgotten Miracle.

Canada

Captain — Scott Niedermayer

Assistants — Sidney Crosby, Jerome Iginla, Chris Pronger

Goaltenders – Marc-Andre Fleury, Roberto Luongo, Martin Brodeur

Players to Watch — Whom not to watch? With such a star-packed team there are plenty of names to keep an eye on, but look out for Blackhawks young forward Jonathan Toews.

Bruins on the roster — Patrice Bergeron

Breakdown — The pressure is on the Canadians to win this tournament going away. It is their sport, their country and their gold medal to lose. With Crosby, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley likely to head up the top line and stout defensemen including Pronger on the blue line, it is an NHL general manager’s dream. Add in Luongo and the timeless Brodeur, and Canada has plus players and depth at every position. Look for Bergeron to man center on the third line and play against opposing teams’ top lines as a defensive forward.

Switzerland

Captain — Mark Streit

Goaltenders — Jonas Hiller, Martin Gerber, Tobias Stephan

Players to Watch — Streit and Hiller are the NHL stalwarts, but some young talent at the minor league level includes Yannick Weber of the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs (Canadiens), Andres Ambuhl of the AHL Hartford Wolfpack (Rangers) and Luca Sbisa of the WHL Portland Winterhawks (Ducks).

Breakdown — Gerber and Hiller are the strength of Team Switzerland and Streit is a strong captain for the team, but overall the talent is spread too thin to compete with the North Americans. A quarterfinals run would be an outside possibility.

Norway

Captain — TBD

Goaltenders — Pal Grotnes, Andre Lysenstoen, Ruben Smith.

Who to Watch – Ole-Kristian Tollefson, Patrick Thoresen, Tommy Jakobsen.

Breakdown — Tollefson and Thoresen are the only two players that have any NHL experience and neither are currently in the league. Tollefson has had the most success as the 65th pick of the 2002 draft by the Blue Jackets. He is with the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Red Wings system. Tollefson and Thorensen are two of only five Norwegian players to ever lace up in the league. Thorensen played with the Oilers and Flyers and now is with Salat Yulaev of the KHL. Jakobsen is the old bear of the team with 131 international appearances. Do not expect much from Norway. The last time it qualified for the Olympics was 1994, and its highest finish in the tournament was eighth in 1972.

Read More: Canada, Norway, Patrice Bergeron, Switzerland
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