Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

On Sochi: Czech Republic, Sweden, Russia, USA

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Men’s hockey arrived on Wednesday with two Capitals players making their Sochi debuts. The Swedes, who are among top contenders for gold, took on the Czechs, whose lack of depth may keep them from medaling. While forwards Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson were both named to Team Sweden, the latter was a healthy scratch. Unsurprisingly, Martin Erat suited up for the Czech team.

Backstrom notched an assist in Sweden’s 4-2 win, while Erat was held without a point. Backstrom’s ice time totaled 15:15, and he was a minus-one for the game; Erat recorded 12:08 of ice time and had an even plus-minus rating.

Sweden’s next game takes place on Friday, February 14th against Switzerland–a team they’ll more than likely dominate. The Czech Republic also plays that Friday, with Latvia their next opponent.

Team Russia and Team USA will play on Thursday, February 13th. The Russians (including Alex Ovechkin) face the Slovenians, and John Carlson and his American teammates are set to play the Slovaks, including Zdeno Chara. Ovechkin will likely play with Evgeni Malkin and Alex Semin–a deadly line combination. Carlson, on the other hand, has been paired with New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Both are talented two-way defenders who could be topped only by Ryan Suter in terms of ice time.

It may be easy to predict the winners of both games–Russia and the United States, respectively–but don’t underestimate Slovenia or Slovakia. Russia could buckle under the pressure, and the U.S. might have trouble reconstructing the star power it displayed in Vancouver.

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