WATCH LIVE: U.S. men’s hockey kicks off schedule vs. Slovakia

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Two strong medal contenders and one dark horse candidate kick of their Olympic tournament on Thursday as the U.S. men’s hockey team faces Slovakia while Russia tries to begin their home gold run by beating up on Slovenia.

Both kick off at 7:30 a.m. ET, so follow these feeds for your corresponding games:

Russia vs. Slovenia: 7:30 a.m. ET – CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

United States vs. Slovakia: 7:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN) – CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Slovakia should give the U.S. a serious test as that aforementioned dark horse. Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa headline a roster that might be a little top-heavy, but remains dangerous. Jonathan Quick (pictured) may get a chance to really prove that he deserves the No. 1 gig instead of Ryan Miller (aka the guy who willed the United States to a silver in 2010), as this is far from a cakewalk.

The other game isn’t expected to be much of a contest, as Slovenia is taking its baby steps at the Olympic level with very little beyond a very good center in Anze Kopitar.

This sums up the difference pretty well.