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Handicapping the 2010 Olympic Hockey Tournament

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
National Hockey League players have arrived in Vancouver and the anticipation has reached a crescendo as the 2010 Winter Olympic Games are now upon us. Action begins at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 16 and concludes with the Gold Medal Game at 3:15 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Five Penguins – Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin (Russia); Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury (Canada); and Brooks Orpik (United States) – will be representing their home countries. will be providing updates on your favorite Penguins, official standings and a listing of which stations will be broadcasting the games.

Preliminary round action begins with three contests on Tuesday, Feb. 16, with all three games featuring the Penguins’ five Olympians.

Team USA will face Switzerland at 3 p.m., Canada battles Norway at 7:30 p.m. and the Russians take on Latvia at 11:55 p.m.

The only guaranteed matchup where the Penguins’ representatives will oppose one another will occur on Sunday, Feb. 21 when Crosby and Fleury lead the Canadians against Orpik and the Americans at 7:45 p.m. on MSNBC.

During the preliminary round, all 12 of the participating teams have been divided up into three pools.

Pool A features the United States, Canada, Switzerland and Norway.

Pool B contains Russia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Latvia.

Sweden, Finland, Belarus and Germany comprise Pool C.

These divisions are based off the 2009 world standings as established by the International Ice Hockey Federation. Russia enters the tournament with the No. 1 ranking, with Canada nipping closely at their heels, followed by defending gold medalist Sweden, Finland and the United States.

Each winning team in the preliminary round will receive three points for a regulation victory. Teams that are victorious in overtime or the Game Winning Shots Procedure (shootout) will gain two points. A team who takes a game beyond 60 minutes but loses will net one point, while any regulation loss is worth zero points.

Following the preliminary round, all 12 teams will be ranked Nos. 1-12, with the top four teams receiving a bye into the quarterfinal round. The other eight teams take part in the qualification round, with the four winners of those games advancing to take on the four teams who had byes. These two rounds will take place on Feb. 23 and 24.

The semifinal round will be played on Feb. 26, with time slots slated for 3 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Both winners will then meet in the Gold Medal Game, which will be played at 3:15 p.m. on Feb. 28, while the losers square off in the Bronze Medal Game at 10 p.m. on Feb. 27.

All home teams from the qualification round forward are determined by the rankings from the preliminary round.

Games will be played at either Canada Hockey Place (General Motors Place) or UBC Winter Sports Centre. This will mark the first time since NHL players began participating in 1998 that the Olympics will use the NHL standard 200ft x 85ft rink as opposed to the 200ft x 98.4ft International surface.

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