The Opening Ceremonies have finished (but have not yet been shown in North America), but the 2014 Winter Olympics are already underway. Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Phoenix Coyotes, hoping to gain some momentum heading into the break. However, it will not exactly be easy, especially since they’re already down two (or three) big names.
Duncan Keith, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews will represent Canada. Michal Rozsival will play for the Czech Republic. Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa will wear Slovakian colors. Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya are wearing the yellow and blue of Sweden, and Patrick Kane will be the lone Team USA representative. Because nearly half the team will be representing their countries, it’s possible there’s going to be some issues before and after the Games. Kane and Oduya will not play against the Coyotes, although Kane will be attending his grandfather’s funeral.
Still, it should mean that the rest of the team will be ready to step up. Brandon Saad is looking for a chance to break out, and tonight might be that opportunity. Newcomer Peter Regin, whose Danish team failed to qualify, will start in place of Kane. Brandon Pirri was sent back down to the Rockford IceHogs (again), although it’s likely a minor move intended to keep him fit during the Olympic break.
But getting back to the rest of the team, there’s plenty of potential there. The Olympians are likely to be distracted (or motivated). The non-Olympians should step up to guarantee one last victory before the Olympics. After beating the Anaheim Ducks, the Hawks should be brimming with confidence and play to the best of their abilities.
As the NHL season prepares to come to a halt, the Blackhawks have a good opportunity to take some momentum into the Olympic break. That requires an all-out team effort and that shouldn’t be too hard to take care of. It won’t be easy, but it can be taken care of.