The Sochi 2014 Olympics are officially 26 days away, but the main event - ice hockey - remains a full month away with the puck set to drop on the men's tourney for February 12th. That's five weeks of NHL hockey and roughly 15 games for each team before the two-week Olympic break. Lots can happen in those five weeks that could impact the tournament and there will be more than enough storylines swirling around hockey circles as the Olympics loom closer. It's a fun and exciting time and let's hope teams only get good news leading up to Sochi to make the tourney that much better.
Here are some of the storylines to follow with one month to go until Sochi:
Injury replacements for Canada/USA needed?
Any time a North American player currently on an Olympic roster is injured there will be a media swarm as to the severity of the injury and who would be a viable replacement. With both teams full of NHLers, there's a good chance that one of these guys could get injured and a replacement needed. Even last night when potential injury replacement, Mark Giordano, took an elbow from Robert Bortuzzo I thought to myself, who's the next guy in line to wait for the call? Hopefully there's no serious injuries, but if there are we could see Bobby Ryan in Sochi after all (drama!), and maybe Marty St. Louis will find his name on the Canadian roster too.
Will Mikko Koivu be healthy?
The Minnesota Wild's leading scorer fractured his ankle on January 4th and had surgery to repair it a few days after. He's listed as out "approximately" one month which would him back in action possibly before the February 9th NHL Olympic break. It's still too early to tell, but Koivu thinks he will be back in time for Finland's first game on February 13th against Austria. The good thing is that if he needs a few more days Finland doesn't play a big match until February 15th against Canada before elimination games start the 18th. It's a long ways away, but Finland losing Mikko Koivu would be a huge blow to their medal hopes.
Who will start for Team Canada?
Roberto Luongo, Carey Price, or Mike Smith? Luongo won the gold medal in Vancouver after taking the reins from Martin Brodeur, but that was four years ago. Luongo is currently nursing a minor injury and has a 16-10-6 record with a .922 SV%. Carey Price has been great all season with 21 wins, a 2.19 GAA and .928 SV%. He's turned away a lot of rubber (3rd most in the entire NHL) and it's hard to imagine Montreal being as close to the top of Eastern Conference without him. Mike Smith has faced the most shots in the NHL thus far, but he hasn't done an exemplary job of stopping them all. With 102 goals against only Ondrej Pavelec has allowed more and Smith's .910 SV% is nothing to brag home about. Even if Luongo were healthy and the Olympics started tomorrow, we're giving Carey Price and his .934 ES SV% the nod to start.