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Olympic Hockey Preview: What to Expect from the New York Rangers’ Sochi 7

February 12th, 2014 at 3:40 PM
By Ricky Cibrano

'Sweden vs. Slovakia' photo (c) 2010, s.yume - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/In case anyone forgot, The New York Rangers sent seven players to the Olympics this year: Americans Ryan McDonagh, Derek Stepan, and Ryan Callahan, Swedes Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin, Canadian Rick Nash, and the Norwegian hobbit-wizard Mats Zuccarello. Some will play in unfamiliar roles, while others might not play at all.

For the red, white, and blue, Ryan McDonagh will see plenty of ice time. He's practiced with former foe John Carlson on what could be a formidable second pair for an American team loaded with a young D. Only the presence of Ryan Suter, possibly the best defenseman in the tournament, keeps McDonagh from being a top-pair guy. Ryan Callahan, unsurprisingly, was placed on USA's 4th line with Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. His main role will be as a penalty killer extraordinaire, as the wider Olympic ice sheet isn't well suited for the Rangers' captain's bang-and-crash game. 

As for Derek Stepan, who likely only made the team because of a paucity of American centers, he and Blake Wheeler have been the extra forwards in practice. In Olympic hockey, teams are allowed to dress 20 skaters (plus two goalies), usually opting to dress one extra forward and defenseman. Because of his ability to play center, Stepan could be that extra forward, but likely won't see much ice, barring injury.

Henrik Lundqvist, winner of ten of his last twelve starts, should be able to use the Olympics to rest up for the stretch run. Check that. The King will be in net for every second of every minute of every game for the Swedes. He'll be the backbone of a powerful Swedish team with gold medal aspirations. Carl Hagelin will be deployed in a role similar to that of Callahan on team USA. Hagelin played on the 4th line in the Swedes 4-2 win over the Czechs today, and with his blazing speed, will likely be asked to kill penalties at some point.

Rick Nash, who played extensively on International ice in Switzerland during each of the last two lockouts, slots in alongside Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp in Canada's highly interchangeable lineup. It's considered the second line, but Canada is so deep that if they do encounter adversity, their lines will be subject to change, and Nash could find himself flying up and down the elevator shaft of Canada's lineup.

Mats Zuccarello, or as they call him in Norway, Mr. Incredible (or is that in New York?), will be Mr. Do-Everything for a Norwegian team devoid of any other NHL talent. Zuccarello's ice time might rival that of Henrik Lundqvist's when it's all said and done. Considering the rest of Norway's roster consists of guys named Per-Age Skroder and Fredrik Lystad Jacobsen, it would be tough to fault bench boss Roy Johansen for riding his lone star.


 

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Tags: Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Henrik Lundqvist, Hockey, Jonathan Toews, Mats Zuccarello, New York, New York Rangers, NHL, Olympics, Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh

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