The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have been underway since late last week, but the men's hockey schedule kicks off with Sweden playing the Czech Republic and Switzerland playing Latvia at 9:00 a.m. PST Wednesday, February 12. Four San Jose Sharks will have to wait 15 more hours for their first games.
All three pictured previews are for games that start Thursday at the Sochi Olympics, from midnight to 9:00 a.m. PST.
Team Finland will play Austria first. If Antti Niemi does not play in this game, his last chance could come in the next game Friday against Norway. (If he does play, look for it to be included in the three-game recap Thursday.)
At 4:30 a.m. PST, Team USA plays a good Slovakian squad. It will be interesting to see where Joe Pavelski plays. He could center any of the top three lines or play wing on either of the top two lines. Considering the lack of center depth, it would seem better to put him there.
Patrick Kane must center the first line, but right now Ryan Kesler is not having as good a season. He has nine fewer goals and seven fewer assists in one more game played than Pavelski on a team that is underachieving. Since either is good defensively, it makes more sense to have the better scorer center the second line.
The third and last team with ties to the Sharks plays at 9:00 a.m. Thursday. Team Canada is so deep that it is conceivable they could scratch both Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. However, it is likely at least one will play against Norway.
Patrick Marleau was taken for his abilities in open ice and he has the versatility to play on a scoring or checking line, on the wing or centre—which is after all how that team spells the position. He should start out on the third- or fourth-line wing and stay in the lineup if he plays well.
In keeping with the Canadian spellings, Vlasic is not likely to play every game on defence. However, he should play more often than not and thus San Jose has a good chance of seeing him on television right about the time the work day starts.