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Who's rising, falling in quest for Olympic spot?

by Dan Rosen

Determining where Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban fits as it relates to Canada's Olympic plans is near impossible at this juncture.

Is his stock on the rise? Is his stock falling?

On one side you've got Canadiens coach Michel Therrien talking up Subban, saying he's never been better defensively and it hasn't taken away from his obvious offensive skill. On the other hand you've got media reports coming out of Canada suggesting the executives picking the Olympic team are not enamored with Subban, and may decide to leave the country's best offensive defenseman and the reigning Norris Trophy winner off the roster.

To his credit Subban is trying to block out the noise. Prior to a game at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., last week, Subban said he doesn't have to prove himself or what he can do to anybody, that his focus is on doing his job and letting other people do the talking.

The twists and turns of the 2013-14 NHL season are affecting the stock of numerous Olympic hopefuls. (Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI, Getty Images, Dave Reginek/NHLI)

"It's not my job to give my opinion on anything," Subban said. "It's my job to just go out and do my job. That's all I'm going to do, just keep playing and let my play do the talking."

While Subban may be an impossible study among Olympic hopefuls right now, there are others who are making clear cases for and against their candidacy. Here are five players whose Olympic stock is up, and another five whose stock is falling:


Max Pacioretty, United States (Montreal Canadiens)

Pacioretty has been one of the hottest American players recently, with nine goals in the past 10 games. He has played a major role in Montreal's hot streak, helping the Canadiens win five in a row and go 9-0-1 in their past 10. He missed eight games with a hamstring injury earlier in the season but it's hard to see how he hasn't already locked up his spot on the U.S. roster, which will be revealed Jan. 1 after the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ben Bishop, United States (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Bishop has overcome his only hiccup of the season and returned to being one of the best goalies in the NHL this season. He gave up nine goals in a little more than eight periods of work during Tampa Bay's western trip midway through November, but he has allowed more than one goal just once in his previous five starts and no more than two since giving up five in a loss against the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 19. Entering the week he is in the League's top-10 in goals-against average (1.98) and save percentage (.934).

Rick Nash, Canada (New York Rangers)

Rick Nash
Left Wing - NYR
AGE: 29
Nash's status was somewhat in doubt as he sat out 17 games with a concussion stemming from a hit to the head he took in the third game of the season. Eleven games into his return it's clear that his timing is coming around. He has four goals and two assists in the past seven games, and likely will be part of Canada's leadership core if he stays healthy.

Claude Giroux, Canada (Philadelphia Flyers)

Giroux is the perfect example of how judging a player too soon can be dangerous. He was way off the radar earlier in the season when he couldn't score and the Flyers couldn't win. In the past month the Flyers captain has turned around his season and helped his team turn around its season. Giroux has five goals and eight assists in the past 14 games as the Flyers have gone 9-4-1 in those games.

James Neal, Canada (Pittsburgh Penguins)

James Neal
Left Wing - PIT
AGE: 26
For a while he was Canada's forgotten forward because he was out early in the season with an injury and then had a relatively quiet return with three points in five games from Nov. 9-18. However, he's been on a torrid streak of late with nine goals and eight assists in his past 10 games. Some could argue he's benefitting from playing with Evgeni Malkin, but maybe Malkin was the NHL's Second Star for November because he was playing with Neal.


Jimmy Howard, United States (Detroit Red Wings)

Howard has watched three of the past four games as the backup to Jonas Gustavsson. He'll presumably be in the lineup Tuesday when the Red Wings play at the Florida Panthers, but Howard hasn't exactly made a strong case for a lot of playing time lately. He gave up five goals in his last game, a 6-3 loss to the Flyers, and in his past nine games he is 1-4-4 with a 2.92 GAA and .903 save percentage.

Mike Green, Canada (Washington Capitals)

Mike Green
Defense - WSH
AGE: 28
Green is an offensive defenseman but it took him until his 25th game of the season to score his first goal. Give him credit for having 13 assists, but he also is a minus-9. His possession numbers have been relatively strong, but the majority of his shifts begin in the offensive end and too often they've ended with his goalie digging the puck out of the back of the Capitals' net.

Alexander Edler, Sweden (Vancouver Canucks)

Edler was the target of coach John Tortorella's ire for his inconsistent play. Now he's watching games because of an undisclosed injury. When healthy he's still one of Sweden's best six defenseman, but his injury and inconsistent play coupled with the fact that he has to serve a two-game International Ice Hockey Federation-imposed suspension for his kneeing incident against Eric Staal in the 2013 World Championship make his roster spot vulnerable right now.

Aleksander Barkov, Finland (Florida Panthers)

Aleksander Barkov
Center - FLA
AGE: 18
BIRTHPLACE: Tampere, Finland
The 18-year-old rookie had a strong start with three goals and four assists in his first 10 games. Things have gone south since, though, as Barkov has one goal and two assists in his past 21 games, including no points in the past eight games. He never was a lock to play on Finland's Olympic team, but he'll likely have to have a strong rest of December to make it. The positive for Barkov is he's playing top-six minutes in the NHL and enters the week sixth in scoring among Finnish forwards in the League.

Corey Crawford, Canada (Chicago Blackhawks)

Crawford was struggling before he sustained a lower-body injury in the first period of the Blackhawks' game Sunday against the Panthers. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he doesn't think Crawford sustained a serious injury, but the team will know more Monday when he is re-evaluated. Either way, Crawford was coming off back-to-back losses in which he allowed four goals in each game, and he's allowed three or more goals in seven of his past 11 complete games. However, he gave up only one goal in each of the other four starts.


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