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Olympic hockey: Group B breakdown 02.16.10 at 1:55 pm ET
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Continuing to break down the Olympic hockey rosters, Group B looks like the deepest of the three groups. Russia is the standout favorite while the Czech Republic and Slovakia field strong teams. The joke about the group is that if the Czechs and Slovaks were still one country (Czechoslovakia) then it would be a powerhouse. Of course, that is not the case. Latvia will will attempt to fight for respectability.

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 — Russia vs. Latvia, midnight

Feb. 17 — Czech Republic vs. Slovakia, midnight

Feb. 18 — Russia vs. Slovakia, midnight

Feb. 19 — Czech Republic vs. Latvia, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 20 — Latvia vs. Slovakia, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 21 — Russia vs. Czech Republic, 3 p.m.

Russia

Captain — Aleksey Marozov

Assistants — Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk

Goaltenders — Evgeni Nobokov, Ilya Bryzgalov, Semyom Varlamov

Players to Watch — Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov

Breakdown — Malkin, Ovechkin and Datsyuk all were finalists for the NHL’s Hart Trophy last year as the league MVP. That is about as impressive of a trio as it gets in Vancouver. The Russians have scoring power to spare but could use a top-flight goaltender to cover the back end. Nobokov is a good, serviceable NHL goaltender but he is never going to be confused with Patrick Roy. The matchup nightmare comes as the Russians roll out line after line of great goal-scorers (Kovalchuk, Ovechkin) mixed with good set-up men (Malkin). Expect the Russians to have a say in the medal rounds.

Czech Republic

Captain — Patrick Elias

Assistants — Tomas Kaberle, Jaromir Jagr

Goaltenders — Tomas Vokoun, Jakub Stepanek, Ondrej Pavelec

Players to Watch — Jagr, Vokoun, Milan Michalek

Bruins on the roster — David Krejci

Breakdown — The Greatest Show on Ice returns to North America. That, of course, means Jagr. Now plying his wares in the KHL, Jagr is one of the top five greatest players of the last 20 years and can still skate well. It will be interesting to watch him take on NHL talent again, and Group B is full of it. Krejci is an interesting member of this team and likely will serve as a second- or third-line center to try to set up Michalek and company. For the Czechs to be there in the end, it will come down to Vokoun. The backstop has played well for a bad Florida Panthers team this year and probably will appreciate having some talent in front of him for once.

Slovakia

Captain — Zdeno Chara

Assistants — Marian Gaborik, Pavol Demitra

Goaltenders — Jaroslav Halak, Peter Budaj, Rastislav Stana

Players to Watch — Chara, Halak, Marian Hossa, Miroslav Satan

Bruins on roster — Chara, Satan

Breakdown — The strength will be in the defense, with Chara leading the way in front of Halak or Budaj. Milan Jurcina and Andrej Sekera give the Slovakians decent depth on the blue line. The Czechs probably are a little bit deeper overall, but this is a second-tier team that could turn some heads if Hossa gets hot and one of the goaltenders can sustain a roll. Satan will play a part, but do not expect him to carry the team.

Latvia

Captain — Karlis Skrastins

Assistants — Herberts Vasiljevs, Aleksandrs Nizivijs

Goaltenders — Ervins Mustukovs, Sergejs Naumovs, Edgars Masalskis

Players to Watch — Skrastins, Oskars Bartulis, Martins Karsums

(Former) Bruins on the roster — Karsums

Breakdown — Latvia is better known as Dinamo Riga of the KHL. Fifteen players from Dinamo Riga are on the Latvian roster, including Karsums, who was assigned to HC MVD of the KHL from the Tampa Bay Lightning AHL affiliate Norfolk Admirals but did not join the team and instead went to Dinamo. Bartulis and Skrastins are both defensemen and the only Latvian players currently on NHL rosters (Flyers and Stars, respectively). Latvia has never finished higher than ninth in any international competition and should get handled easily by the other three teams in the group.

Read More: Czech Republic, David Krejci, Latvia, Martins Karsums Print  |  Email   | Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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