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Day 1 offers first looks at USA, Canada, Russia

by Bob Condor
VANCOUVER -- Enough of the Olympian pre-roll. Let the (men's ice hockey) Games begin. The USA, Canada and Russia are all in action Tuesday, while 2006 gold medalist Sweden has to wait until Wednesday. In our first edition of Game Day Ahead, here is a look at the Day 1 potential storylines.

Miller or Hiller time?

In the 2010 opener, the Americans will face Switzerland and potentially hard-to-crack Jonas Hiller, who has stoned more than his share of USA players in past Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the American net? The Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller, who by many accounts was the best goalie in the NHL (and you would reasonably argue in the world) during the last five months.

While the goalie matchup might be considered a standoff or close to it, the American offense is measurably more productive than Switzerland. First-line wings Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils and Pat Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, anchored by Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny, will be critical to the USA hopes here in Vancouver. They might as well start to rev up Tuesday.

"I think we have the potential to be one of the high-scoring lines in the tournament," said Kane before his team practiced for the first and only time before the Swiss game.

Skip to the Lu

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock created a bit of stir Tuesday by announcing hometown hero Roberto Luongo of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks as the host country's starting goalie against Norway (7:30 ET, CTV, RDS, CNBC). The presumed No. 1 goaltender, Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, won't play until Thursday.

After those first two games, Babcock said he will then decide who gets the starting call against the USA on Sunday. You have to like the move on a sentimental note, plus it gives Brodeur a bit of a breather after working the overwhelming majority of his team's games during the first three-fourths of the NHL regular season. Norway, light on NHL veterans, is likely to make Babcock's plan look good.

Ovi and out

Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin bypassed the media corps waiting in the Olympic "mix zone" Tuesday afternoon. But, no worries, Russia's brightest scorer is likely to light up Day 1's late game (11:55 p.m., CNBC) against Latvia. And if Ovi is not enough, fellow big-time NHL scorers Evgeni Malkin (MVP of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs as a Pittsburgh Penguin) and Ilya Kovalchuk (of recent New Jersey Devils vintage) can fill the gap—and the net. Latvia, with two NHLers to 14 for Russia and another handful of former NHL all-stars, doesn't stand much of a chance.
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