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Soviet star to lead Russian team into Sochi

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Former Soviet and New Jersey Devils defenseman Alexei Kasatonov will head the Russian hockey team as its general manager in an attempt to score the country its first gold since it began competing as an independent nation.

“We all know what the Olympics mean, what kind of interest it creates worldwide. It’s the biggest prize in hockey and I just couldn’t turn down this offer,” Kasatonov said. “My job would be to talk to players, including those from the NHL, but the head coach will always have the final word.”

Kasatonov, who served as a GM in the KHL after retiring from the game, will try to help shape a team that can impress home fans in Sochi next February the way he and his national teammates did in the 70s and 80s. He was on the Soviet squad that famously lost to the U.S. Miracle on Ice team at the 1980 Olympics, but he got his revenge by earning back to back golds at the ’84 and ’88 Games.

His job shouldn’t be too tough with home ice advantage and the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin headlining, but Russia hasn’t medaled in men’s hockey since earning bronze more than a decade ago at the Salt Lake and people are probably getting antsy. Kasatonov included.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

Fenway Big Air
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Fenway Park will host some of the world’s best freeskiers in the one-of-a-kind Big Air at Fenway, live on NBC Sports Live Extra on Friday night.

Big air skiers will descend from a ramp that’s four times higher than the Green Monster inside the hallowed Boston Red Sox home.

Ski big air is most like slopestyle of the current Olympic disciplines, except skiers get one jump per run.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

On Thursday, Canadian Max Parrot and American Julia Marino won the snowboard big air competitions at Fenway Park.

Big Air at Fenway coverage will conclude with an NBC show on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET.

MORE: Olympic champ suffers concussion at Big Air at Fenway practice

Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympics open with homages to 1994

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In an homage to the Lillehammer 1994 Winter Olympics, Princess Ingrid Alexandra of Norway lit the Lillehammer Youth Winter Olympic cauldron to cap the Opening Ceremony on Friday night.

The princess’ father, Crown Prince Haakon, lit the 1994 Olympic cauldron in a very similar fashion (video here). Princess Ingrid Alexandra was born in 2004.

The Opening Ceremony, held outdoors at a ski jump (same venue as 1994) in sub-freezing temperatures, included a speech from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.

“I’m just a little bit too old to compete in the YOG,” Bach said, urging listeners to use the hashtag #IloveYOG during the nine-day Winter Games.

The ceremony included Olympic legends, such as 2010 figure skating gold medalist Yuna Kim and eight-time Olympic cross-country champion Bjorn Daehlie carrying the Olympic flag.

Marit Bjoergen, a 10-time Olympic medalist cross-country skier, handed the Olympic flame to the princess.

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. ET, plus daily coverage throughout the Winter Games. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on U.S. Olympic medalists from Sochi