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Hello From Sochi

by Steve Goldstein / Florida Panthers

Greetings from Sochi.

The US women are on a gold medal collision course with Canada. Both teams are 2-0 with wins over Finland and Switzerland. They play in what should be a gold medal preview on Wednesday with the winner finishing atop Group A.

The US beat the Swiss 9-0 today. It was an impressive offensive display, highlighted by Amanda Kessel, who's brother Phil plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs and is a part of the men's team. Kessel had two goals and two assists, as did her linemate Kendall Coyne.

The men's teams are practicing and the US starts play Thursday against Slovakia with Tomas Kopecky of the Panthers suiting up for the Slovaks. There are eight teams that realistically think they can take home a medal and of those, five have a legitimate shot at the Gold; the US, Canada, Russia, Sweden and Finland, which has Panthers rookie phenom Aleksander Barkov as its top center with Anaheim and Finnish legend Teemu Selanne and fellow Young Gun Mikael Granlund of Minnesota. All five teams feature top-notch goaltending.

The pressure of the Winter Games will be great, particularly for the home team Russia. It should be a great tournament, one that could be decided by goaltending and which team handles the pressure and bigger ice the best. The international ice surface is 10 feet wider and longer than North American rinks. Goalies must adjust to the angles and skaters have to make the mental and physical adjustments, realizing they have more room.

The US plays its first game Thursday at 4:30pm Sochi time, 7:30am eastern. I am broadcasting with former Panther Bret Hedican on Westwood One radio network and all games will be picked up on Sirius/XM satellite radio as well. Make sure to check the local listings for which stations will air the games.

The Olympic village is super and the proximity of the arenas and things to do in the Olympic Park are outstanding. My hotel room is perfect and security everywhere is tight. I do not share the negative image being portrayed by some in the media. In the 24 hours I've been here in Sochi, and this is my fourth Olympics covering, the setup couldn't be better. And it was 55 degrees and sunny today, making me feel like I was back in South Florida! The staff at the hotel and everywhere else are helpful and it's evident they have much pride in these games being in Russia.

I am still feeling the affects of the long trip and nine-hour time change so until next time…


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