Finland and Austria open up Group B play for men's hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. With puck drop scheduled for 3:00 a.m. EST, if you're up for this game, all the power to you.
Already missing from Finland's Olympic roster are Saku Koivu, Mikko Koivu, and Valtteri Filppula. So this match against Austria will be a good opportunity to establish a gameplan that will give them a chance to win against stacked opponents such as Canada, Russia, Sweden, and USA.
At 43-years old, newly appointed Finnish Captain Teemu Selanne will be counted on to lead a mix of veterans, rookies, NHL, KHL, and SM-liiga players in Sochi. With 11 players on Finland's roster from European-based teams, they should have an advantage when it comes to the large international ice. Expected to join Selanne on Finland's top line is 18-year-old Florida Panthers rookie Aleksander Barkov.
Finland's biggest strength is in goal with Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins; Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks; and Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars between the pipes. Given the quality of puck-stoppers in their pen, the Finns could surprise us these Winter Olympics. Rask should be Finland's number one for the tournament, but if he falters, Niemi is no slouch and has a Stanley Cup ring to back him.
Austria's roster includes only three NHL players, including NHL trade deadline superstar Thomas Vanek. While it's uncertain how much longer Vanek will be a member of the New York Islanders, his focus will be on playing spoiler in Sochi with Austria.
The sniper is joined by fellow Islanders teammate Michael Grabner and the Philadelphia Flyers' Michael Raffl. Michael's brother Thomas Raffl is also a member of Austria's forward group. Needless to say, it has to be special for the Raffls to play together at the Olympics, even if they face a steep up-ice battle to reach the medal round.
Did you know?
There's a Finnish documentary on Teemu Selanne. Check out the trailer (make sure to enable captions for English subtitles):
Puck drop is at 3:00 am EST on CBC, and you can stream it live here.
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