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updated: 2/24/2010 7:54 AM

Loser goes home when Canada rumbles with Russia

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  • James Wisniewsk

    James Wisniewsk


If you thought Sunday's U.S.-Canada game was terrific, Wednesday night's Olympic quarterfinal clash between the Canadians and Russia has the potential to be even better from a hockey perspective.

Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin - the two best players in the world going head to head in a game featuring the two pre-tourney gold-medal favorites.

Loser goes home.

The Canadians, who advanced by beating Germany 8-2 on Tuesday in a qualifying game, can erase the negativity Sunday's loss to the Americans brought them with another win Wednesday night and a berth in the semifinals.

The Crosby-Ovechkin hype can't be overdone. The game's two greatest superstars might respect each other, but that doesn't mean they like each other.

"I respect him as a person," Ovechkin told The Hockey News before the games. "But when I step on the ice, I respect only my teammates."

If you saw Ovechkin drop the Czech Republic's aging Jaromir Jagr with a devastating open-ice check Sunday, you know this stud is in Vancouver to win a gold medal.

Would Ovechkin dare to drill Crosby, Joe Thornton or Jonathan Toews with a similar hit Wednesday night? Let's put it this way: Sid the Kid, Jumbo Joe and the Blackhawks' captain better keep their heads up.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is tested by Switzerland on Wednesday in the quarterfinals, which won't be a skate in the park. Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller is perfectly capable of stealing a win, particularly in a one-and-done setting.

U.S. general manager Brian Burke reminded his team that Sunday's upset of Canada means little now.

"They don't hand out medals for finishing first in the preliminary round," Burke said. "We had a bunch of guys not perform up to the level we need. Our goaltender (Ryan Miller) stole us a game."

No Miller time

This courtesy of the Buffalo News: There were 16 goaltenders drafted ahead of U.S. Olympic hero Ryan Miller in 1999 before the Sabres took the Michigan State star 138th overall.

The Hawks took four players who never made it before Miller went off the board: Defenseman Steve McCarthy (23rd overall), right wing Dmitri Levinski (46th), defenseman Stephan Makhov (63rd) and defenseman Michael Jacobsen (134th).

The Hawks did draft a goalie not long after Miller went to Buffalo, taking Michael Leighton in the sixth round with the 165th pick.

J.R. sounds off

Were you wondering why NBC handed off Sunday's U.S.-Canada game to MSNBC? So was Jermey Roenick, the former Hawks star now working the Olympics for NBC.

"Can you believe it? This is why us hockey players and people that have been involved in the sport get so frustrated with the nation not understanding how great our sport of hockey really is," Roenick told WFAN radio in New York.

"Yes, (Sunday) night we had an unbelievable opportunity to watch one of the greatest games in this tournament on the world stage, USA vs. Canada, in the prime-time 7:30 East Coast time. Instead our country gets to watch figure skating," Roemick said.

"Nothing against figure skating; it is a beautiful sport. It is a fantastic sport and it is very difficult to play, but my goodness, what a thing that people missed, not being able to see that game in prime time and how it would have shown what patriotism really means within the sport of hockey."

Practice rink ready

The Olympic break officially ends Wednesday with NHL teams allowed to resume practicing at 2 p.m.

The Hawks will wait until Thursday morning for their return to practice, and when they do hit the ice again it will be at the new Johnny's Ice House, located west of the United Center near the intersection of Madison Street and Western Avenue.

Vokoun moving on?

There will be plenty of eyes on the Florida Panthers when the NHL's roster freeze ends Sunday.

The trade deadline is next Wednesday and the Panthers could be ready to move some of their best players such as goalie Tomas Vokoun and center Nathan Horton.

Vokoun, who has been linked by rumors to the Hawks and Philadelphia, has a no-trade clause he would need to waive.

Vokoun sounded as if he might be ready to move on from the dreadful Panthers in a recent interview with the Miami Herald.

"You want to be in the playoffs, and I haven't been there since I've come here," Vokoun said. "It's frustrating. When you get older you don't know how many chances you're going to get."

The list

The Hockey News in its Feb. 22 issue ranks the top 30 goaltenders in the NHL based on their play this season.

1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey

3. Craig Anderson, Colorado

4. Tomas Vokoun, Florida

5. Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary

6. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix

7. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles

8. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver

9. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose

10. Henrik Lundqvist, N.Y. Rangers

11. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh

12. Jaroslav Halak, Montreal

13. Dwayne Roloson, N.Y. Islanders

14. Tuukka Rask, Boston

15. Cristobal Huet, Blackhawks

16. Jimmy Howard, Detroit

17. Tim Thomas Boston

18. Johan Hedberg, Atlanta

19. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim

20. Antti Niemi, Blackhawks

21. Brian Elliott, Ottawa

22. Chris Mason, St. Louis

23. Pekka Rinne, Nashville

24. Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota

25. Ondrej Pavelec, Atlanta

26. Ty Conklin, St. Louis

27. Dan Ellis, Nashville

28. Antero Nittymaki, Tampa Bay

29. Jose Theodore, Washington

30. Cam Ward, Carolina

Ex-Hawk of the week

It appears certain the Anaheim Ducks will deal defenseman James Wisniewski before next Wednesday's trade deadline.

It's a long list of teams that covet Wisniewski, who has 3 goals, 22 assists and plays big minutes for the Ducks.

Wisniewski is a restricted free agent after the season and is believed to be looking for a considerable bump in pay from the $2.75 million he now earns, which is why the Ducks are looking to move him out.