At least one Dallas Stars player is guaranteed to make his Olympic debut as the men's tournament really gets rolling tomorrow, one more is pretty certain to play and a third will definitely be on the sidelines.
Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is the guarantee after he was announced as Team Finland's backup goalie for their opening game against Austria. Tuukka Rask, to the surprise of no one, will start.
The trio of Finnish goalies, which also includes Antti Niemi, was also spotted hanging out together at the NHLPA Lounge. Because of course they were.
On the not starting side of the ledger is Valeri Nichushkin, who will be one of the forward scratches as Team Russia opens up against Team Anze Kopitar, er, the Slovenians.
Some may be surprised that Nichushkin is scratched now, and indeed is likely to be scratched for much of the tournament, but the writing has been on the wall. If you recall, Russia's coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov had a very interesting quote after the team's official roster was released
Valeri Nichuskin challenge is caused by the fact that we saw his game for Dallas during the trips to North America. He is now in a very good shape. Somewhat it’s an advance which must be justified by extremely gifted and talented player. I’ll repeat: at this moment he is in a good shape.
Russian general manager Alexei Yashin quickly shot down those comments, telling R-Sport: "It’s hard to talk about an advance payment. It’s the wrong word. Nichushkin has earned the call to the Olympics with his game."
That's true, but if the coach isn't on your side, or is a looking at you as an investment in the future rather than a part of the present, you're probably going to be spending some time on the sidelines. Regardless, it's still a great opportunity for the young Russian to be a part of the Olympic team in his home country, and he will gain a ton from the experience even if all he does is practice and watch from the press box.
Finally, Jamie Benn seems likely to make his Olympic debut tomorrow for the Canadians playing alongside John Tavares and Patrice Bergeron, and he and many of his teammates were spotted at the women's game this morning. Benn, who has always loved a good tuque, broke out a special one for this occasion.
Phoenix Coyotes (@phoenixcoyotes) February 12, 2014