Men’s hockey preview: Pressure’s on for Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane

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All games can be seen live online. TV listings can be found here.

EVENT SCHEDULE

Feb. 12 – Czech Republic vs. Sweden and Latvia vs. Switzerland: both at noon ET

Feb. 13 – Finland vs. Austria: 3 a.m. ET; Russia vs. Slovenia and Slovakia vs. United States: both at 7:30 a.m. ET; Canada vs. Norway: at noon ET

Feb. 14 – Czech Republic vs. Latvia: 3 a.m. ET; Sweden vs. Switzerland: 7:30 a.m. ET; Canada vs. Austria and Norway vs. Finland at noon ET

Feb. 15 – Slovakia vs. Slovenia – 3 a.m. ET; United States vs. Russia: 7:30 a.m. ET; Switzerland vs. Czech Republic and Sweden vs. Latvia at noon ET

Feb. 16 – Austria vs. Norway – 3 a.m. ET; Russia vs. Slovakia and Slovenia vs. United States at 7:30 a.m. ET; Finland vs. Canada at noon Et

Feb. 18 – Playoff game 1 – 3 a.m. ET; Playoff game 2 – 7:30 a.m. ET; Playoff games 3 and 4 are both at noon ET

Feb. 19 – Qualifying game 1 – 3 a.m. ET; Qualifying game 2 – 7:30 a.m. ET; Qualifying games 3 and 4 are both at noon ET

Feb. 21 – Semifinal game 1 – 7 a.m. ET; Semifinal game 2 – noon ET

Feb. 22 – Bronze medal game – 10 a.m. ET

Feb. 23 – Gold medal game – 7 a.m. ET

Want to know key differences between NHL and Olympic hockey? Click here.

U.S. OUTLOOK

The goalie debate of Jonathan Quick vs. Ryan Miller may seem to lean toward Quick, but previous tournaments show that a lot can change (even in a short period of time). The U.S. brass seems pretty happy with either Miller or Quick in net, though.

The United States’ best forwards are now in their prime after surprising for silver in 2010, giving the U.S. its best top-end options since Mike Modano’s peak (that is particularly true when it comes to Patrick Kane, who has matured on and off the ice).

The likes of Kane and Zach Parise will be leaned upon heavily for offense, as the deeper ranks of the team lean more toward versatility and grit than scoring touch. Ryan Suter is far and away the standout from the United States’ defense corps.

PHT’s Mike Halford asks: Did the U.S. go too young on defense, though?

It’ll be very interesting to see if this ballyhooed young group can live up to its potential while handling the pressure. Remember, one of the best Americans in Vancouver was 36-year-old Brian Rafalski, the team’s oldest player. He won best defenseman, made the tournament all-star team and skated with Suter as the team’s top defensive pair.

With Rafalski now gone, Suter looks to be the guy — which could be why Poile was comfortable surrounding Suter with so many young defensemen. At the end of the day, the American blueline sounds like it’ll rely on its star power to get through.

INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK

Russia is aching for its first gold medal since 1992, with enormous pressure on Alex Ovechkin’s shoulders. Luckily, there are other forwards who are at or near his level on that roster, from Evgeni Malkin to Pavel Datsyuk and departed NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

PHT asks: Are expectations too high for Russia?

Defending gold medal-winner Canada boasts the best on-paper roster as usual. Much like the U.S., they’ll face questions regarding whether they can dominate on the international ice surface after winning gold on familiar NHL-size ice in Vancouver.

PHT asks: Will goaltending cost Canada?

There are plenty of other countries with reasonable hopes of winning a gold medal (or at least getting on the podium), with Sweden getting plenty of consideration thanks to gold from 2006, Henrik Lundqvist and an impressive young group of defensemen.

PHT asks: Are the Swedes healthy enough?

PHT also asks:

Do Austria, Norway, Latvia and Slovenia have a chance?

Can goaltending carry Finland through?

Can Slovakia surprise again?

Will the Czechs regret their snubs?

Can Switzerland still sneak up?