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Going for Gold

by Mike Sundheim / Carolina Hurricanes is providing complete coverage of the four Canes players participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Player Features: Justin Faulk | Andrej Sekera | Tuomo Ruutu | Alexander Semin | Game Recaps: Semifinals, Feb. 21 | Quarterfinals, Feb. 19 | Qualification, Feb. 18 | Prelims, Feb. 16 | Prelims, Feb. 14-15 | Prelims, Feb. 13 | Related Links: Printable Broadcast Schedule | Full Schedule, Results & Stats

Mike Sundheim
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The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are underway, and four members of the Carolina Hurricanes -- Justin Faulk (USA), Alexander Semin (Russia), Tuomo Ruutu (Finland) and Andrej Sekera (Slovakia) will be in Russia to take part in the world’s most important international ice hockey tournament. Here’s a quick guide to men’s hockey at the Olympics to get you ready for puck drop on Feb. 12.

How to Watch: Every game of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament will air live on NBC’s family of networks. Though there are games that start as early as 3:30 a.m. ET, all three of Team USA’s round-robin games have 7:30 a.m. ET start times on NBCSN. Kyle Hanlin put together a nifty, printable version of the broadcast schedule that will look great on your bulletin board.

Tournament Format: The Olympic tournament expanded to 12 teams this year, and will begin with round-robin group play. The three group winners and the top second-place team earn automatic spots in the Olympic quarterfinals on Feb. 19. The remaining eight teams will play in qualification games on Feb. 18 to earn spots in the medal round. The Olympic semifinals will take place on Feb. 21, with the bronze medal game on Feb. 22 and the gold medal game on Feb. 23.

Here are the groups for round-robin play:

Group A Group B Group C
Russia Finland Czech Republic
USA Austria Sweden
Slovakia Canada Latvia
Slovenia Norway Switzerland

Our Olympians: Four Hurricanes players will represent their countries in Sochi, and three of the four will skate against each other in group play. Michael Smith and CanesVision are creating a terrific series of features on our four Olympians, which will post to starting on Monday. All four have extensive international experience.

  • Justin Faulk, USA: The Minnesota native has been competing for the United States internationally since he was 16 years old. He scored the gold-medal winning goal for Team USA at the 2010 U-18 World Junior Championship in Belarus, and helped the U.S. win bronze at the 2011 World Juniors in Buffalo. Most recently, Faulk was the leading scorer among American defensemen at the 2012 and 2013 IIHF World Championships, winning bronze in 2013 in Stockholm. Let’s hope Faulk and his teammates can get some good mojo without doing anything crazy to their salads.
  • Alexander Semin, Russia: This will mark Alexander Semin’s 10th major international tournament for host Russia, and his second Olympic Games. The Krasnoyarsk native helped his country capture gold at the 2008 IIHF World Championship in Quebec City and the 2012 IIHF World Championship in Helsinki. Semin also earned medals at the 2002 U-18 World Junior Championship (silver), 2005 IIHF World Championship (bronze) and 2010 IIHF World Championship (silver). Winning Olympic gold in his home country would surely make Alex even happier than being featured in a Forslund Focus.
  • Tuomo Ruutu, Finland: Few international players have a resume of success to match Tuomo Ruutu, who has earned medals in all 10 major competitions he has been a part of. A native of Vantaa, Finland, Ruutu will compete in his second Olympics after earning bronze with Hurricanes teammate Joni Pitkanen in Vancouver. He finally added gold to his medal collection in 2011, scoring six goals to help Finland win the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. In case you didn’t know, Tuomo is kind of a big deal in Finland.
  • Andrej Sekera, Slovakia: Andrej Sekera’s will look to continue his breakout season wearing the (really cool, anthem-bearing) sweater of his native Slovakia in Sochi. It will mark Sekera’s second Olympics – his Slovakian team came just short of the medal stand in 2010, falling to Ruutu’s Finnish squad in the bronze medal game. Sekera captained Slovakia at the 2006 World Junior Championship, and also represented his home country at the 2004 U-18 World Junior Championships, the 2005 World Juniors and the 2008, 2009 and 2010 IIHF World Championships.

Heavy Medal: Four Hurricanes players went to the 2010 Games in Vancouver, and all four returned with medals: Eric Staal (Canada-gold), Tim Gleason (USA-silver), Tuomo Ruutu (Finland-bronze) and Joni Pitkanen (Finland-bronze). Only three other Hurricanes players have won Olympic gold medals since NHL players began competing in the tournament in 1998: Sami Kapanen for Finland in 1998 (bronze), Tom Barrasso for Team USA in 2002 (silver) and Frantisek Kaberle for the Czech Republic in 2006 (bronze).

Rules: There are several rules differences between the Olympics and the NHL, the most important of which is the size of the ice surface. Both the NHL and the international rinks are 200-feet long, but the international surface is 15 feet wider, adding 300 square feet to the ice surface. The Score’s Justin Bourne wrote an excellent piece explaining why (ice) size matters.

Other rules variations include:

  • No-touch icing: There is no race to the hash marks like the NHL’s hybrid icing. As soon as the puck crosses the red line, play is blown dead.
  • Stay out of the crease: Sabres fans may (or may not) appreciate that a goal does not count if a player or his stick enters the goal crease. The only exception is if a defending player interferes, forcing the offensive forward into the crease.
  • Major penalty: All major penalties come with an automatic match penalty, including fighting.
  • No trapezoid: Some goalies would like to see the no-play trapezoid behind the net in the NHL eliminated. Those goalies will be happy in Sochi.

Canes vs. Canes: We don’t know whether Justin Faulk will be trying to lay a hit on Tuomo Ruutu in the medal round, but we do know about three games in which Hurricanes players will see a teammate as an enemy:

  • USA vs. Slovakia, 2/13, 7:30 a.m. (NBCSN): Defensive partners Justin Faulk and Andrej Sekera will see each other right away in Russia, as their teams open up with a head-to-head in matchup.
  • USA vs. Russia, 2/15, 7:30 a.m. (NBCSN): Faulk gets his first taste of an old Olympic rivalry as the U.S. takes on Alexander Semin and Russia in hostile territory.
  • Russia vs. Slovakia, 2/16, 7:30 a.m. (USA Network): Semin and Sekera will battle it out at the same time as Faulk and Team USA are wrapping up round-robin play vs. Slovenia (NBCSN).

Miracle: Two members of the United States’ 1980 gold-medal-winning team in Lake Placid went on to play for the Hartford Whalers. Mark Johnson, who had two of Team USA’s four goals in their upset of the Soviets, notched 203 points (85 goals, 118 assists) in 201 games for Hartford between 1982 and 1985. Forward Rob McClanahan had three assists in 17 games for the Whale in 1981-82.

If you're American and haven't seen the below video yet, now is the time. Sorry about that wall you're about to run through.

Squaw Valley: Digging even further into Team USA and Whaler-Canes lore, Tommy Williams played 139 games for the Whalers in the World Hockey Association (WHA). Williams was a member of the “Forgotten Miracle” United States team which won all seven of its games at the 1960 Winter Olympics to win the country’s first Olympic gold in hockey.

Match Made on Ice: Nearly a decade before he joined the Hurricanes, Bret Hedican was a member of the United States team that finished fourth at the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France. Also competing in those games was Hedican’s future wife, Kristi Yamaguchi, who topped Japan’s Midori Ito for the gold medal. Nancy Kerrigan won the bronze in Albertville, just ahead of fellow American Tonya Harding.

Hedican returned to the Olympics in 2006, skating with fellow Hurricane Erik Cole and led by Carolina Head Coach Peter Laviolette in Torino, Italy. The Americans finished eighth in the tournament, but the trio did have some decent success together in Carolina in the months that followed.

Hot Ticket: We’re not the only ones fired up about the Olympic hockey tournament:

Ladies First: The United States Women’s hockey team has won four of the last five World Championships, but has not brought home Olympic Gold since Nagano in 1998. Most expect the U.S. and Canada to battle for the gold in Sochi, though hopefully not quite like this. Forward Julie Chu is competing in her fourth Olympics for the Americans, still looking for her first taste of Olympic gold. Wisconsin native Amanda Kessel (not to be confused with Hurricanes anthem singer Amanda Kessell Bell) is the younger sister of Toronto Maple Leafs and Team USA winger Phil Kessel. Four-time World Championship gold medalist Meghan Duggan is serving as captain for the Americans, who opened play with a 3-1 victory against Finland on Saturday morning.

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