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Olympic Hockey Day 8 Preview

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Throughout the entire 2018 Winter Games, NBC Olympics staff will preview the upcoming slate of hockey games and recap the prior day’s action.

Men’s Tournament
Canada vs. Czech Republic, 10:10 p.m. ET | LIVE STREAM

Canada’s offensive attack was overwhelming in its first game against Switzerland, but a consistent presence up front will be critical as the 2014 gold medalists look to defend their title.

The Czech Republic ran into a hot goalie and a raucous crowd in its opening game against South Korea, but still managed to escape with a 2-1 victory.

USA-SVK Recap| OAR-SLO Recap

Korea vs. Switzerland, 2:40 a.m. ET | LIVE STREAM

The Swiss looked overmatched against Canada in its first game and will look to rebound vs. the host country Saturday. After failing to match Canada’s skill level and physical intensity, Switzerland will look to gain some confidence against Korea.

OAR vs. USA, 7:10 a.m. ET | LIVE STREAM

The last time these two sides met, American forward T.J. Oshie played hero, beating reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky four times in a shootout to defeat Russia 3-2 in a thrilling preliminary round contest in Sochi. Much has changed four years later. The matchup is now technically the United States vs. the Olympic Athletes from Russia, and only two players from the 2014 game will take the ice in PyeongChang: OAR forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Both squads are coming off of much-needed victories after suffering upsets to open the tournament. The point Team USA earned in its overtime loss to Slovenia could prove crucial, as a win over OAR would put the U.S. at 7 points and guarantee a bye to the quarterfinals.

Slovenia vs. Slovakia, 7:10 a.m. ET | LIVE STREAM

Both teams lost their second game of the Olympics after earning surprising victories to open up the tournament. Slovakia upset OAR, the tournament favorite, but fell to Team USA Friday. Slovenia looked out of place against OAR in an 8-2 defeat and struggled to compete.

Women’s Tournament
OAR vs. Switzerland, 10:10 p.m. ET, CNBC | LIVE STREAM

Alina Muller has led Switzerland’s offensive attack with six goals as the team looks to improve on its 2014 bronze-medal finish. OAR has only scored one goal in three games so far and will likely struggle to keep up offensively with the Swiss.

The winner of this game will face Canada in the semifinals.

Finland vs. Sweden, 2:40 a.m. ET | LIVE STREAM

Noora Raty has looked sharp between the pipes but has not gotten the necessary support from her teammates to help Finland advance in the tournament. With one more shot to qualify for the semifinals, Finland hopes Raty’s presence in the crease will motivate the squad. Many observers thought Finland could challenge one of the North American teams in the preliminary round, but that was not the case.

Alina Zagitova eyes more gold at worlds; women’s preview

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Alina Zagitova hasn’t lost internationally in 18 months, and that doesn’t figure to change this week at the world championships in Milan.

The 15-year-old Russian is favored to become the youngest world gold medalist since Tara Lipinski (duplicating her feat from the Olympics) and make it five straight Olympic or world titles for Russian women, the longest streak for one country since American Carol Heiss won six straight Olympic/world titles from 1956 through 1960.

Zagitova would also become the first Olympic women’s champion to win worlds the following month since Kristi Yamaguchi in 1992. That’s largely because Olympic champions usually skip worlds in Olympic years. Since Yamaguchi, the only one to compete was Yuna Kim, who grabbed silver in 2010.

Zagitova may be young, but she may not have the longevity of Kim to make it to a second Olympics. Russia turns over a new class of elite women’s skaters every year.

Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova won the world junior title as the first woman to land two different quadruple jumps in one program. Trusova isn’t old enough to compete at the senior worlds until 2020.

Zagitova’s current rival and training partner, Olympic silver medalist and 2016 and 2017 World champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, withdrew from worlds due to injury.

WORLDS: TV Schedule | Pairs Preview | Nagasu’s Outlook

Which leaves the last two Olympic bronze medalists, Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada and Carolina Kostner of Italy, plus PyeongChang fourth-place finisher Satoko Miyahara of Japan as the top challengers this week.

None finished within seven points of Zagitova at any competition this season, the Russian’s first on the senior international level.

Zagitova set herself apart at the Olympics by putting all of her jumps in the second half of her programs for 10 percent bonuses and landing them all with positive grades of execution.

The U.S. contingent includes national champion Bradie Tennell, two-time Olympian Mirai Nagasu and Mariah Bell (replacement for 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen).

It is the end of a challenging season for U.S. women. In the autumn, none qualified for the Grand Prix Final for a second straight year (after at least one had done so each of the previous seven seasons).

In PyeongChang, no U.S. woman finished in the top six for the first time in Winter Games history. Tennell, who emerged this season after placing ninth at 2017 Nationals, was the top U.S. Olympic finisher in ninth.

Tennell goes into worlds as the top seeded American — seventh — by best international scores this season.

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Olympic golf qualifying, format largely unchanged for 2020

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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic golf tournaments qualifying and format will remain largely the same as they were for the sport’s return to the Games in 2016, according to Golf Channel, citing a memo sent to PGA Tour players.

The format will again be four rounds of stroke play with 60 men and 60 women taken from the world rankings, according to the report.

The qualifying window to determine the rankings will be July 1, 2018 to June 22, 2020 for men and July 8, 2018 to June 29, 2020 for women. That’s a slight change, as for 2016 the dates were the same for men and women.

The 2016 process saw a maximum of two men and two women per country, or up to four if they were ranked in the top 15.

Then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said one month after the Rio Games that he hoped the Olympic golf format would be changed to have more medals awarded.

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