SOCHI, Russia -- With 10 players spread across five teams in the Winter Games -- including seven advancing with a bye to the quarterfinals -- there's a good possibility of at least one of the 10 Chicago Blackhawks in Sochi coming home with some hardware. Good luck making it through the metal detector at the airport.
Or, as Hawks and Sweden defenseman Johnny Oduya put it, "it would be nice if one of us comes home with the gold medal -- maybe a couple of us."
With the warm-up portion of the men's hockey tournament out of the way and the real fun about to start with Tuesday's qualification round followed by Wednesday's quarterfinals, some Hawks have a tougher hill to climb than others. Marian Hossa and Michal Handzus are on an offensively challenged Slovakian team that has managed two goals in three games. Meanwhile, Michal Rozsival of the Czech Republic is on a squad that has had whispers about dissension among the ranks regarding playing time. As a defenseman who dressed but did not take the ice in Team Czech's last game, it's hard to imagine Rozsival is happy.
Oduya and Hawks and Sweden teammates Niklas Hjalmarsson and Marcus Kruger have an excellent chance at advancing to the medal round after having secured the top seed with a banged up team. Patrick Kane is a vital cog to a United States group that thus far has looked stronger than any other in the tournament -- despite the fact the winger has not yet found his stride offensively in a developing chemistry with linemates.
Through three games each in Sochi, no Hawk has managed to score despite a combined 33 shots.
Which brings us to Canada, featuring Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp. Toews and Keith played well in their three preliminary games while Sharp has been caught in Canadian roster roulette, having been a healthy scratch one game. His status is uncertain for Wednesday's game against the winner of Switzerland-Latvia.
Along with the Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty and Nashville Predators' Shea Weber, it's been Toews and Keith who have fueled Canada in the early going.
Canada coach Mike Babcock said, "Toews stands out to me," and it's understandable why the Hawks captain would. He's centering a line with wingers Patrick Marleau and Jeff Carter, a potential gold strike by Babcock since putting the trio together. The line was Canada's best against Austria and Finland.
"I'm ... trying to have a little more patience with the puck and waiting until those plays are there instead of just forcing things," Toews said. "A couple of games ago with Marleau and Carter, it went really well. We were able to find a few great chances that Carter put away.
"(Against Finland), I think we could've had a few more maybe. But as a line I think we found some chemistry where when we get things going we keep the puck alive and we make plays together."
Keith has played above the level of his 2010 Norris Trophy campaign during this NHL season and has flourished in the Olympics playing alongside Weber.
"I'm trying to work well and trying to adjust to the team game," Keith said. "As defensemen, we want to help create offense and move the puck out. We have such skilled forwards that we want to get the puck to (them) as much as possible and let them go to work."
The real work begins Tuesday. The real fun begins then too.
And when it's over, one or more of the 10 Hawks here is likely to have another carry-on for his trip home.
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