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AC Olympic Preview: Group A Preview and Predictions

With the start of the Olympic Men's Ice Hockey tournament just a few short days away, let's take a look at Group A a little more closely and play the predictions game, shall we?

Martin Rose
Contending Teams: United States, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia
Round 1:

Russia vs. Slovenia (Feb. 12th, 4:30am PST): It's the first dance for the high-flying host Russians, who could not have asked for a better matchup to ease into the tournament. That being said if it's too easy and they don't come out strong, they could pay for it in the remainder of their schedule in what is easily the toughest of the three groups. This will be our first chance to see how effective Anze Kopitar will be when the talent alongside him is nowhere near that of his LA counterparts (well.. except maybe Kyle Clifford). Winner: Russia 7-0

Slovakia vs. United States (Feb. 12th, 4:30am PST): Tough test right off the bat for the USA when they face one of the sleeper teams of the tournament. Slovakia is coming off a fourth place finish in the last tournament and will be looking to get over the threshold this year. Jaroslav Halak is no easy goalie to beat, and the task doesn't get any easier with Zdeno Chara standing in front of him. Winner: United States 2-1

Round 2:

Slovakia vs. Slovenia (Feb. 15th, 12:00am PST): Two countries who many people probably didn't know weren't the same place coming into this tournament. So long as Chara contains Anze Kopitar, the Slovaks shouldn't have too much trouble with this game. Winner: Slovakia 4-1

United States vs. Russia (Feb. 15th, 4:30am PST): The premiere heavyweight matchup of the group. This is going to be the game in which the United States will be punished for not bringing all of their best-skating and puck-moving defensemen along [cough]KEITH YANDLE[cough] because the Russians will be positively flying. Expect the US to give up at least 40 shots on goal this game, so their only hope will likely rely on Ryan Kesler, Joe Pavelski, and Zach Parise to make the most of what few chances the USA gets with its limited possession. Winner: Russia 3-2

Round 3:

Russia vs. Slovakia (Feb. 16th, 4:30am PST): Do-or-die time for these teams. Russia will likely be looking to earn their spot atop the group and seal a bye into the quarterfinals, while Slovakia will be pushing for a better matchup in the playoff round. Alex Ovechkin and Pavel Datsyuk vs. Zdeno Chara will be an interesting storyline to watch. Winner: Russia 3-1

Slovenia vs. United States (Feb. 16th, 4:30am PST): It will be interesting to see if Dustin Brown puts his shoulder through Los Angeles teammate Anze Kopitar's head (more likely than you might think). If that happens, does LA and the entire NHL finally realize what a scumbag he's become this year? Does the IIHF suddenly turn into NHL Player Safety and ignore it once again? Oh but as for the game, the US shouldn't struggle too much unless they go into cruise control mode. Seeing as their spot in in the next round should pretty much be secured by this point, they might. Winner: USA 3-0

Final Standings Predictions:

1. Russia: 9 pts

2. United States: 6 pts

3. Slovakia: 3 pts

4. Slovenia: 0 pts

Stay glued to Anaheim Calling for full coverage throughout the Olympic tournament.