Winter Olympics: Hockey capsule outlook
By Helene Elliott
Los Angeles Times
Canada Hockey Place and UBC Thunderbird Arena
MEN, FEB. 16-28
Best of the U.S.: Goaltender Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres holds the key to Team USA’s hopes. If he’s on, he’s equal to anyone in the world. He will have to excel because the defense has holes. Only Brian Rafalski, Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner have Olympic experience. Youngsters such as Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Colorado’s Paul Stastny must produce.
Best of the rest: Canada smartly added some young blood, including Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, and should get scoring from the San Jose line of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer has had a tough season with the Anaheim Ducks but should thrive with better players around him. Russia is stacked up front with Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Defending champion Sweden could repeat if Peter Forsberg has recovered from his latest injury, to his ribs.
Prediction: 1. Canada. 2. Russia. 3. Sweden.
WOMEN, FEB. 14-25
Best of the U.S.: Defenseman Angela Ruggiero and forward Jenny Potter have a full set of Olympic medals: gold from Nagano, silver from Salt Lake City and bronze from Turin. Goaltender Jesse Vetter of Cottage Grove, Wis., was stellar during pre-Olympic play, and the intuitive play between Joceylne and Monique Lamoureux of Grand Forks, N.D., is what you would expect from twins.
Best of the rest: Canada lost the last two world titles to the U.S. but has been gearing up for this for years. Hayley Wickenheiser remains one of the best forwards in the women’s game at age 31 and Canada will have skill and experience up front.
Prediction: 1. Canada. 2. U.S. 3. Finland.