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Greg Wyshynski

The Hockey Story: Finally, games begin for U.S., Canada

Fourth-Place Medal

The Hockey Story sets the scene and the storylines for the day's Olympic ice hockey action, in a handy and easy-to-follow numerical format.

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1. How grand will Canada open?

The Canadians open their competition against Norway (7:30 p.m. ET; U.S. TV: CNBC), fully aware that every line, every shift and every save will be scrutinized as a harbinger of things to come. They need to start with an emphatic outclassing of Norway, which is clearly the least of the four teams in Group A; but they need to do so without getting too cute with the puck against a Norwegian team that wants to make the neutral zone look like a 10-car pileup on the freeway. Roberto Luongo gets the call in net, getting those home-ice jitters out of the way for the Vancouver Canucks goalie in Game 1.

2. Sidney and Patrice and Rick

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby (pictured) has seen his share of linemates over the years, and one wonders if there will be more mixing and matching in his first Olympic tournament. He begins on a line with Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Coach Mike Babcock said that Bergeron's faceoff prowess could free up Crosby's offensive game. Let's see how they operate.

3. U.S attempts to avoid giant-killing

The Americans face Switzerland (3 p.m. ET; U.S. TV: USA Network) in a game that should have them worried. Really worried. The Swiss forever earned the label of spoiler after thwarting Canada, 2-0, in Torino four years ago. This time, their goaltending is arguably better: Jonas Hiller of the Anaheim Ducks, who earned a starting job in the NHL this season and played out of his mind in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs. Expect plenty of traffic in front of him from the likes of wingers Ryan Malone and Dustin Brown.

4. How incredible will Russia's top line look?

The practice for Team Russia on Monday featured a line seemingly created for its YouTube highlights potential (were they contractually allowed to appear on YouTube, mind you): Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin of the Washington Capitals, on either side of center Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings. Two of the NHL's top eight goal scorers with one of its most inventive playmakers. Yes, please. Russia opens its path to gold in the late game against Latvia (9 p.m. ET; U.S TV: CNBC).

5. Can the Russian women score on the U.S. this decade?

As Matthew Sekeres points out, Russia hasn't scored on the U.S. women's hockey team since 2001, while the Americans have pummeled them 16-0 over their last two meetings. The U.S. moves on to the semifinals with a win in the 5:30 p.m. ET game (U.S. TV: MSNBC).

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