Preview: Canada vs. Norway
|Roberto Luongo starts in goal tonight for Canada.
NOTE: records are presented as three-point wins (regulation time), two-point wins (OT or shootout), one-point losses (OT or shootout), zero-point losses (regulation time).
What to watch -- Let the pressure cooker heat up, the Canadians will be feeling the heat inside a relatively cold Canada Hockey Place when they open the tournament on their home ice against the Norwegians. They shouldn't have too many problems in this game, as Norway won't be dressing anyone that is currently on an NHL roster.
Canada, though, has to play its game, and not down to the Norwegians. If the Canadians play to their systems and feel good about the effort and chemistry, than this should truly be a successful opener. If they don't, even a win might not feel great.
Just a note: Canada is 3-0 against Norway in the Olympics with a combined score of 29-3. The last time they played was in 1992 and Canada won 10-0. However, Norway gave Canada a game in the 2008 World Championships before losing, 2-1. Rick Nash won it with a power-play goal in the final five minutes of regulation. Canada had 53 shots to Norway's 16.
Norway -- For the first time since hosting the Games in 1994, the Norwegian hockey team is back in the men's Olympic ice hockey tournament. However, they are here without an NHL player, which doesn't bode well for their chances.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is the only Norwegian who has played in the NHL this year, but he was recently sent by the Red Wings to Grand Rapids of the AHL. Patrick Thoresen played two seasons in the NHL (2006-08) with Edmonton and then Philadelphia. He's now in the KHL after spending last season in Sweden.
Coach Roy Johansen will likely start Pal Grotnes in net. He's 32 and has been Norway's goalie in the last two World Championships. Expect to see Norway playing a very defensive system to counter the Canadian attack.
"Everything has to go our way to win," Thoresen said. "It can happen, but obviously it's pretty high odds. We're not going to look at them and go wow. We're going to respect them, but do our best."
Canada -- The Canadians open the tournaments with very few question marks.
Ryan Getzlaf has a sprained left ankle, but he played on it Sunday and had two goals and two assists for Anaheim in a 7-3 win over Edmonton. He's ready to go. Roberto Luongo will get the nod in goal from coach Mike Babcock with Martin Brodeur slated to start against Switzerland on Thursday. Sidney Crosby will center the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Rick Nash. Look for Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley to play together and Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith to be paired on the back end, just like they are in Chicago.
Canada is 18-1 in Olympic openers. Its lone loss came in 2002, a 5-2 drubbing by Sweden. However, the Canadians went on to capture their first gold in 50 years.
"I just looked at the game in 2008 when it was 2-1, and that's good enough for me right now," Babcock said about how he won't overlook Norway. "All these teams can beat you. These teams are going to clog up the neutral zone on us. If we want to be stubborn and we want to be cute through the neutral zone they can frustrate you. They can beat you on the power play if you let that happen."
Total NHL players on rosters -- Norway 0; Canada 23
Puck Drop -- "We expect when the puck drops that we're going to keep coming for 60 straight minutes," Babcock said. "That's going to be our plan and our focus from the start. Can we do that? You're going to watch and I'm going to watch and we're going to find out."