VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Vladislav Tretiak has devoted most of his life to Russian hockey, both as one of the greatest goalies of all time and now as the country's hockey leader. No one is more upset than he that the gold-medal contenders lost in the Olympic quarterfinals.

In his first interview with a North American media outlet since his team's early exit, the general manager of Russia's Olympic team and president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation told ESPN.com on Saturday that he's just as disappointed as all the passionate Russian hockey fans, but everything was done to give Russia its best chance to win here.

"Before the [quarterfinal] game with Canada, I said that it was very unfortunate that two great teams met in a position where one would have to be eliminated and without a medal," Tretiak said through a translator. "We had the best team that we could put together. But Team Canada was stronger, and there's nothing else you can say. They were faster than us. We couldn't do anything with their speed."

Last month, Tretiak was re-elected to a five-year term to stay on as federation president, a stay that would run through the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Under his helm as president, Russia has won bronze and two gold medals at the men's world championships, and he believes that success will continue despite the stunning loss here.

"It's sport, you can't always win," Tretiak said. "Even when I played, you were never guaranteed results."

In a separate interview with ESPN.com and The Hockey News earlier on Saturday, KHL president Alexander Medvedev underlined his feelings about Russia's early exit Wednesday.

"It was a big disappointment," Medvedev said. "Everybody dreamed about the final between Canada and Russia. I appreciate the performance of the Canada team. They deserved the win, but I don't agree it was a great game. A great game is when it's a tough competition all the way around like it was yesterday between Slovakia and Canada. ...

"Surprisingly with the Russian stars, everybody anticipated strong performances of [Alex] Ovechkin and [Evgeni] Malkin and [Ilya] Kovalchuk, but it was not at the top of their level, including the physical play. Why it happened? It's a question for coaches and specialists to answer. Canada didn't allow Russia to demonstrate their skills."

One of the main criticisms of the Russian Olympic team is the belief the nine KHL players didn't mesh with the NHL stars. But both Tretiak and Medvedev disagreed with that notion.

"I don't think so," Medvedev said. "Because for two years in a row, there was no difference between NHL and KHL players in Quebec [2008 world championships] and Bern, Switzerland [2009 worlds]. We had nine KHL players. I don't agree with those who say KHL players were weaker than NHL players. Actually, it was the [whole] team that failed."

Said Tretiak, "For two years, we were world champions because we did come together as a team."

Tretiak also denied another widely held belief that there was outside pressure to select that many KHL players.

"No there was no pressure to pick players from the KHL," Tretiak said. "The coach [Vyacheslav Bykov], in fact, picks the players. The general manager does not actively participate in picking the players."

Four years ago, when Russia beat Canada in the quarterfinals at Torino, Italy, it was GM Wayne Gretzky and the Canadians who needed to explain themselves. Now it's Tretiak and the Russians. That's just sport, Tretiak said.

"It is a difficult tournament; there's a factor of luck," Tretiak said. "Just like in 1981 when we won the Canada Cup 8-1 in the final, was the Canadian team worse than us? No. They also had the best players. But in that game, we were better, our luck was better. If we played eight games instead of one game [here in Vancouver], nobody knows how it would turn out. But in this game, they were better."

Tretiak cares deeply about his country and the national team. He believes he has a strong vision for the team moving forward and hopes to be able to deliver on it.

"The most important thing for us is to keep the team bonded," he said. "Only these players can help us in the future with world championships, and obviously we need to get ready for 2014. We have to learn our lessons, but we also need to move forward and keep our heads on straight. What happened happened. We have to keep on going."

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- We don't believe much in ghosts, but if you hang around hockey players enough, you'll understand that the game is filled with karma and superstition and omens, both good and bad.

On the eve of the gold-medal game between Canada and the United States, if there was ever a U.S. team able to channel the late Herb Brooks, it's this one.

U.S. forward Ryan Malone was mentored by Brooks for many years.

"He just always expected more," Malone said of the coach of the last U.S. gold-medal team, the "Miracle on Ice" squad from 1980. "If you were in there working out for half an hour after a game, he was always asking, 'Why weren't you in there for an hour?'"

Malone recalled one night Brooks saw him score a hat trick in a college game. Brooks, a longtime Pittsburgh Penguins scout who was also involved with player development for the team, told him the hat trick was bad news for Malone because now he was going to have to work that hard every night.

"He always told me the legs feed the wolf," Malone said. "To make sure the legs were always going and training for hockey players is probably the most important part to get where you want to go."

Malone attended the University of Minnesota, where Brooks first coached NCAA hockey.

"The hockey camp I've been going to since I was 15, he started, so it's weird how it all kind of shakes out like this and you just want to make him proud on Sunday," Malone said.

That's not all.

U.S. defenseman Brooks Orpik, born in San Francisco a few months after the "Miracle on Ice" win in Lake Placid in 1980, was named after Brooks.

"Obviously, my dad's idea," Orpik said. "My mom didn't even know what hockey was up until then."

Orpik was likewise drafted by the Penguins and got to know Brooks before his death in a car accident in the summer of 2003. Orpik recalled how he and former teammate Colby Armstrong would meet with Brooks periodically when Brooks would visit the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre.

"And we got to pick his brain about anything really," Orpik said.

There is a strong Brooks connection in every gold-medal effort the U.S. hockey team has been involved in. In 1960, Brooks was among the last players cut before the U.S. went on to win gold in Squaw Valley. He coached the 1980 team and was the coach in 2002 when the Americans were defeated by Canada in their last gold-medal game appearance.

Heading into Sunday's game, does it seem strange having all of these connections to Brooks?

"I don't know how much more special it can get than this moment, but it's definitely a little weird how everything played out and worked out here in the end," Orpik said.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- There's losing, and then there's humiliation. There are some very proud hockey players in Finland's dressing room, and Friday's 6-1 loss to the hands of Team USA in the semifinals of the men's Olympic hockey tournament left them nearly speechless.

"I really have no words. It's just unbelievable," veteran winger Teemu Selanne of the Anaheim Ducks said after the demoralizing effort.

"You don't get to play these games too often," said defenseman Kimmo Timonen of the Philadelphia Flyers. "Obviously, 6-0 in the first period, the game was over there. If I had an explanation of why that happened, I would give it to you, but I don't have it."

What's strange is it's not like this group of Finnish players to drop a stinker like this. Oh sure, they've lost plenty of games over the years, but they were almost always close affairs. It's their trademark. Down 6-0 12:46 into the first period? Not so much.

"I don't really know what happened," said Selanne. "Obviously, it's really disappointing. I've never been part of that kind of game before. It was something that you don't want to experience many times. When the game is over after 10 minutes, it's going to be a real tough day. I'm very disappointed we didn't even give ourselves a chance for the gold medal final. Losing is fine as long as you play your best game; but losing like this, it's tough."

Once it got to 6-0 so early in the game, "at that point, you wish it was curling so you could just give up," said Selanne (curling matches can be conceded early by the losing team in a rout).

But it's not time to give up yet. The Finns have a bronze-medal game to play Saturday night, and while some countries (ahem, Canada) can't seem to get up for the third-place game, the Finns always do. This is a tough tournament that's eight teams deep in talent, and a medal of any color is an achievement for any country.

"There's a bronze on the line tomorrow and it's all about bouncing back and trying to take what's left," said Selanne. "A bronze medal for this kind of tournament is huge. We have to remind ourselves it's not over yet."

For Selanne (it's definite) and buddy and captain Saku Koivu (likely), Saturday's game will be their last hurrah wearing Suomi colors in the Olympics. Wrapping it up with a bronze would mean a lot. Expect a better effort from the Finns.

"I hope I can smile tomorrow," said Selanne.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Bode Miller, Chad Hedrick and the men's four-man bobsled team will all be in action Saturday. Here's what we'll be watching:

Alpine skiing: Men's slalom: Three events into these Games, Miller was two medals from becoming the first Alpine skier to medal in all five events since 1988, the first year five events were contested at the Olympics. But after a DNF in giant slalom, those plans changed. Now, with a medal performance in slalom Saturday morning, he can become only the fifth athlete to medal in four events in one Olympics. Miller's teammate Jimmy Cochran, a slalom specialist, also is a medal hope for the U.S., as well as Ted Ligety, a two-time Olympian who looks to live up to a 1972 performance by his aunt, who won gold in slalom in Sapporo. Besides reigning gold and silver medalists Benjamin Raich and Reinfried Herbst of Austria, the greatest challenge Team USA will face is the weather, and themselves.

Cross-country skiing: Women's 30-kilometer mass start: This torturous event -- 18.6 miles, if your math is rusty -- is simply a survival of the fittest. Since the event's debut in 1992, the Italians have won three of five gold medals, and Marianna Longa could continue the tradition. Finn Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Norwegian Kristin Stoermer Steira and Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk all are talented distance skiers, but the hometown crowd will be behind four-time Olympian and British Columbia native Sara Renner. American Kikkan Randall also will race, but she excels in freestyle skiing, and in this race, athletes are required to use the classical style.

Four-man bobsled, Day 2: American Steven Holcomb and his Night Train crew built a whopping (in bobsled terms) four-tenths of a second lead over Canada's Lyndon Rush in the first two runs of the competition Friday, setting successive track records with each run. Defending champ Andre Lange of Germany is just three-hundredths of a second behind the Canadian sled. But on the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre, no lead is safe. Six sleds failed to make it through Curve 13, ominously dubbed the "50-50 curve" due to the chances of making it through unscathed, and slid down the track upside down. Should Holcomb's group hold on to its lead, it will win the first U.S. gold in four-man bobsledding in 62 years.

Men's curling: Gold- and bronze-medal matches: Unbeaten skip Ken Martin and the Canadian team will face Norway -- flashy, diamond-print pants and all -- for the gold medal Saturday afternoon at Vancouver Olympic Centre. The home team is trying to become the first curling squad to go undefeated at the Games since the sport returned as a medal event in 1998. The Norwegians have lost just one match in Vancouver after Team Canada beat them 7-6 in extra ends Feb. 16, and the rivalry is an old one. Canada won gold in 2006, and Norway won it all in 2002. In the earlier match, Sweden and Switzerland will face off for bronze.

Snowboard: Men's parallel giant slalom: Sure, one country (the U.S.) has dominated halfpipe snowboarding. But in recent years, one family has dominated men's PGS: the Schoches. Phillip and Simon Schoch finished 1-2 in Torino in 2006, and younger brother Phillip won gold in 2002. Both return in the hopes of once again making the Olympic PGS race a family affair. The U.S. team of Tyler Jewell and Chris Klug could jumble those plans. Jewell placed 11th in his first Olympics in 2006 and was 10th at the 2009 World Championships. Klug, the only American to medal in this event (bronze in 2006), is a sentimental favorite. Spreading his story of overcoming a liver transplant to compete in the Olympics is much of his motivation for returning for another Games (aside from also becoming the second medalist, that is).

Long-track speedskating: Men's and women's team pursuit: Despite having earned the most winter medals in U.S. Olympic history, American long-track speedskaters have won just three medals in Vancouver: Shani Davis' gold in the 1,000 meters and silver in the 1,500, and Hedrick's bronze in the 1,000. They have a chance to earn more in the team pursuit Saturday afternoon at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Veteran Hedrick, joined by youngsters Trevor Marsicano, 20, Brian Hansen, 19, and Jonathan Kuck, 19, upset the favored Dutch in qualifying and will face Canada in the final. The women's team consists of two-time Olympic bronze medalist Jen Rodriguez, four-time Olympian Catherine Raney Norman, and newcomers Jilleanne Rookard and Nancy Swider-Peltz Jr. They have advanced to the semifinals, along with Japan, Poland and Germany.

Ice hockey: Men's bronze-medal game: Goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff and the Finns looked stunned after suffering through a one-sided first period Friday in which Team USA scored six goals. Team Finland managed to score just one goal in the 6-1 semifinals rout. Now, Finnish veterans Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu have one chance to redeem themselves in what likely will be their last Olympics. They play Slovakia in Saturday afternoon's bronze-medal match at Canada Hockey Place. The Slovaks, though, enter the game on a roll: Their third period against Canada was one of the best of the tournament, and they nearly beat the home team in the closing seconds.

Tags:

Olympics

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Apolo Ohno, Lindsey Vonn, and the men's U.S. and Canadian hockey teams will all be in action Friday. Here's what we'll be watching:

Snowboarding: Women's Parallel Giant Slalom
Since PGS was added to the 1998 Games - it was individual giant slalom back then -- European riders have dominated the event. Austrian racers Marion Kreiner and Doris Guenther, the top two women at the 2009 world championship, will be the women to beat Friday afternoon at Cypress Mountain. The U.S. has only had one medalist: Rosey Fletcher, who took bronze at Torino in 2006. But the lone American in this year's field would like to change that stat. Michelle Gorgone finished in the top 10 at four World Cup races in 2009 and returns for her second Olympics with a real shot at placing in the top five. Known for going for broke on every turn of every run, Gorgone hopes to finally cash in before retiring at the end of this season.

Alpine Skiing: Women's Slalom
Once again, the talk heading into women's slalom - the final event on the women's Alpine roster -- is about one of Lindsey Vonn's body parts. Vonn broke her right pinkie finger in her first run of the giant slalom Wednesday afternoon, but has decided to race her final event of the 2010 Games. "She's had way worse than that. She'll be fine," U.S. coach Jim Tracy told Reuters on Wednesday. Vonn's teammate Julia Mancuso opted out of the final event, and Sarah Schleper de Gaxiola of Vail is a technical skier who has posted two top-10 finishes in World Cup races this year. But Maria Riesch of Germany and Sandrine Aubert of France are still the women to beat.

Bobsled: Four-Man
At a news conference earlier this week, Steven Holcomb was pranked by his U.S. teammates, who told him he had to take his final eye exam in front of the media. A degenerative eye disease left him nearly blind last year, but an experimental procedure restored his vision to nearly 20/20. As he read the eye chart, Holcomb spelled out "The Night Train Will Win Gold." And after piloting his sled, dubbed the Night Train, to the first U.S. world title in 50 years last March, Holcomb and teammates Steve Mesler, Curt Tomasevicz and Justin Olsen could become the first U.S. athletes to win gold since 1948. John Napier, pilot of the USA 2 sled, also has medal potential. A 1-2 U.S. finish? You'd have to see it to believe it.

Curling: Women's Gold- and Bronze-Medal Matches
Skip Cheryl Bernard and the top-seeded Canadians are exactly where they wanted to be: playing for gold in front of the home crowd. They will face Anette Norberg and the defending gold medalists from Sweden in Friday's final match at the Vancouver Olympic Centre. On Thursday morning, Norberg, 43, competing with the same team she had in Torino, Italy, defeated the Chinese team in the semifinals. It was a rematch of the 2009 world championship final, a match the Chinese won. The Canadians defeated the Swiss in their semifinal in a match that came down to the last stone. China and Switzerland will play for bronze.

Short-Track Speedskating: Men's 500m, Men's 5,000m Relay, Women's 1,000m On Friday evening at Pacific Coliseum, Apolo Ohno will defend his gold medal in the 500 meters while shooting for his eighth overall Olympic medal. Later on, he'll lead the U.S. men in the relay, the final race of the short-track competition, against strong teams from France, China, South Korea and Canada. Sandwiched between the two men's events is the women's 1,000. American Katherine Reutter set an Olympic record in the qualifying round Wednesday afternoon, but will have to contend with 500m gold medalist Wang Meng and 1,500m gold medalist Zhou Yang, both of China.

Ice Hockey: Men's Semifinals, USA vs. Finland, Canada vs. Slovakia
By now, everyone knows Canada blew out the Russians in Wednesday's quarterfinals, rendering superstar Alex Ovechkin virtually useless by putting the sheer size and skill of winger Rick Nash and defenseman Shea Weber in his way. Now, Canada will have to get through Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa and the rest of the Slovakian team to earn a berth in the gold-medal gamel. The Americans, who squeaked by Switzerland in the quarters, will face Finland, which eliminated the Czechs on Wednesday night at UBC Arena.

Tags:

Olympics

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The Americans play at noon local time Friday, which will mark the fourth time they will play the lunchtime special at these Olympics.

Obviously, it requires that players prepare differently than for normal NHL games in the evening or even midafternoon tilts.

"You wake up, you eat breakfast and play. It doesn't give you a lot of time to think about the game, which can be good. You don't sit around all day. You just get up and play. I don't mind it at all. I thought I wouldn't like it at all, but I do," American forward Zach Parise said.

One of the other differences has been dressing in rooms that have no clock ticking down to the start of the game. In NHL dressing rooms, there are clocks that allow players -- especially those who hold to a firm pattern or ritual of pregame readiness -- to know exactly how much time they have before having to take the ice.

Those clocks do not exist here, or at least the clocks in the room have been difficult to follow.

Chris Drury joked that there some players who follow the ritual so closely that he doesn't think they could survive this tournament.

"You don't really have that here, so everyone's trying to figure out when exactly it is, when they need to be doing something. As the tournament goes on, you eventually figure it out," Parise said.

"I usually do a little hot and a cold tub in the morning on the day of a game. It's different playing at 7. Playing at noon, I don't want to be taking a cold tub at 10 in the morning. That's one thing that I've just kind of had to throw out, and shockingly I can still play."

Line juggling

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock has kept reporters busy with his line juggling in this tournament.

"I was just giving you guys something to write about," he joked Thursday. "You need something to complain about. We said right from the get-go we're a work in progress. We're trying to get better each and every game. It took us awhile to get to where we got last night. I told the coaches, I looked at my book and on Nov. 17, those were my lines. We finally got back to that. It's just one of those things we didn't think was the right combination to start Game 1."

So, Mike, what else is in that Olympic notebook of yours?

"Lots of stuff," he said. "All my notes for the whole year are in there. I'm going to sell it to you when I'm all done."

The defensive pairings are quite different from what he had in mind a few months ago.

"To tell you the truth, the only group that's stayed together is [Scott] Niedermayer and [Shea] Weber," Babcock said. "The rest has all changed. That's why you come to the tournament. You have this thing on paper, like I do every year with the Red Wings in the summer, and you get to camp and you throw it out about three days in because none of it worked. Some players are better than you expected, some aren't moving as quick as you expected. So they decide who plays in what situations."

Darling Ducks

Babcock was happy to see Anaheim stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry finally have a big night, the pair combining for three goals against Russia.

"I thought [Perry] and Getzy had to be a lot better, and I thought they were last night," the Canadian coach said. "They were real good for us and really effective. I just said to both of them, 'We've had some wars with Anaheim over the last three years, and every night we played them, those guys came to play and they were big-time warriors and I expect the same here.'"

Crazy Canada

Team Canada forward Mike Richards had quite the reaction from family and friends in the wake of the big win over Russia.

"It was a lot of text messages, calls," the Philadelphia Flyers captain said. "You could feel the atmosphere in the building and how much everybody wanted it, not only us but the fans and everyone around wanted us to beat them. It's nice to get the win, but it's over and now we have to move on to Slovakia."

Richards said his team needs to be wary of Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak of the Montreal Canadiens.

"He's quick. He's a standard kind of butterfly goaltender, but he's got quick feet and when you think he has the open net, he kind of kicks it over, so you've got to be aware of that and bear down on your chances."

Nice job

Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber helped shut down Alex Ovechkin on Wednesday night, and he said he relished the opportunity.

"I don't think I was nervous," Weber said Thursday. "He's one of the best players in the world. As a kid, you dream about playing in big games against the top players in the world. It was a challenge I was looking forward to, and as a team, I think we did a pretty good job."

Canada-USA?

Let's face it, a USA-Canada rematch is on a lot of people's minds.

"It would be huge," Canadian defenseman Drew Doughty said Thursday. "The game we played in the round-robin was a big game, 20 million viewers or something like that. But we can't look past this game tomorrow. I think we have a team that's definitely capable of winning the tournament, but all four teams are capable of winning. They wouldn't be at this point if they weren't really good."

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The final four was set late Wednesday night with one of the most shocking upsets of the men's Olympic hockey tournament.

Slovakia dethroned defending champion Sweden with a 4-3 quarterfinal win and advanced to the semifinals for the first time its young hockey history. There, Zdeno Chara and the Cinderella Slovaks will have its toughest challenge yet, as Team Canada hopes to rock the host nation with a trip to the gold-medal game.

"It's huge, you know," said Slovak veteran Jozef Stumpel. "It's tough to describe. You'll have to ask the people back home how crazy it's going over there."

"This is huge back home," added former Montreal Canadiens winger Richard Zednik. "Hockey is really popular. They're really looking forward to this tournament. It's really exciting for the fans, for the people back home and for sure for us."

Meanwhile, Team USA's surprise Olympic tournament also continues Friday against a gritty Finland team in its semifinal game.

"USA played a good game against Canada," Finnish captain Saku Koivu of the Anaheim Ducks said Wednesday night after a 2-0 quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic. "They have a good roster and [Ryan] Miller is a good goalie. It's a huge challenge, but it's exciting."

The Finns are fourth in the official International Ice Hockey Federation world rankings, while the U.S. is fifth.

"We're probably not the biggest favorite, but if we play as a team, we have a chance," said Finnish goalie Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames.

Slovakia won its first and only world title in 2002, but continues to develop top-end players. The Slovaks upset Russia in a shootout in the preliminary round, but sent out mixed signals with a nervy 4-3 win over hockey minnow Norway on Tuesday night in the qualifying round. Obviously a good night's sleep was all they needed. The Slovaks jumped out to 2-0 and 4-2 leads and held on to stun star-studded Sweden.

"Obviously, you have to believe," said Montreal Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak, who continued his dream-like tourney with 26 saves Wednesday. "Because when you go into a game with Sweden, we are underdogs. But you have to believe. Everyone believes in our locker room and that's why we came out with the victory."

Somewhow, when all the dust cleared Wednesday, powerhouse countries Russia and Sweden were both sent packing. And joining Alex Ovechkin with the early exit was Washington Capitals linemate Nicklas Backstrom of Sweden.

"I don't know, I don't have an explanation right now," a stunned Backstrom said. "I don't feel we were on top of our game. They're a good team, we knew that before the game, but we weren't ready maybe.

"We should be better than what we showed. I'm just really upset right now."

video

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Not surprisingly, the locals were cheering for Switzerland in Wednesday's quarterfinal game against the United States.

"That's OK," said Team USA forward Bobby Ryan. "It gave us a little bit of energy, a little bit of life at times. If we get the Canadians down the road, I know they're going to be ruthless and we know what we're going to come into. So we might as well start practicing for it now."

Some of the cheering crossed the line.

"There were some expletives from behind the bench but not too much," said Ryan. "Most of the fans are cordial but they do give it to you a little bit. We heard a lot of 'Go Swiss' chants and it's kind of like -- eh -- you look around, and you're wondering what the heck we have to do to have somebody like us around here.

"It's fun. It's all part of the game. We accept it. We love it."

Hey buddy

Ryan repeatedly had words for Anaheim Ducks teammate and Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller in Wednesday's quarterfinal.

"It was after a rush there I told him, if I got another one, I was coming," said Ryan. "I had a couple chances throughout the night. Him and I go back and forth in practice and go at each other pretty good. I just wanted to try and get in his head a little bit. Clearly, it didn't do too much but it's something we'll talk about in Anaheim.

"He's a goalie that really when he zones in, zones in. I like to think I was a little bird in his ear that affected him in some way. But he just looked at me and I think there was a grin behind the cage there."

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- On Thursday, women's figure skating and ice hockey take the stage, as medals will be awarded in both contests. But those aren't the only sports you should check out. Here are our picks for the top events to watch:

Nordic Combined: Men's Individual Long Hill/Individual 10km
The U.S. won its first-ever Nordic combined medal on Valentine's Day, when Johnny Spillane took silver in the men's individual normal hill. The Americans followed with a second silver in the team competition Tuesday. Spillane will be in action again Thursday for the long hill individual event, along with relay teammates Bill Demong and Todd Lodwick. Other medal contenders will be Frenchman Jason Lamy Chappuis, who has a sizable lead in the current World Cup standings, Austrian Felix Gottwald and German Eric Frenzel.

Curling: Semifinals
Thursday will be a big day for Canadian curling. Skip Kevin Martin enters the semifinals having gone a perfect 9-0 in round-robin play, and his team is in first place. The Canadians will face Sweden, which beat Great Britain in a tiebreaker, and Norway will play Switzerland. Cheryl Bernard and the Canadian women's team also finished first after the round-robin, and they will face off against Switzerland. In the other semifinal, the defending gold medalists from Sweden will take on the reigning world champs from China.

Figure Skating: Women's Free Program
Regardless of what happens with the hockey tournament, the story of these games should be Joannie Rochette's performance in the face of overwhelming tragedy; her mother Therese, 55, passed away unexpectedly Sunday morning after arriving in Vancouver to watch her daughter skate. And skate she did. Rochette turned in a performance that was as courageous as it was flawless in the short program Tuesday night, then burst into tears at its conclusion. Heading into the free skate, she sits in third place behind Korea's Kim Yu-Na and Japan's Mao Asada. Americans Rachael Flatt, 17, and Mirai Nagasu, 16, are fifth and sixth.

Freestyle Skiing: Men's Aerials
Defending Olympic champion Han Xiaopeng of China and top-ranked Anton Kushnir of Belarus, who has graced the podium in every World Cup event this season, both failed to qualify for the final in the men's aerials competition, making it anybody's ballgame. China's Jia Zongyang qualified first, followed closely by American Ryan St. Onge. American Jeret "Speedy" Peterson is fifth. If conditions hold, look for Peterson's trademark "Hurricane" in the final. With three flips and five twists, it's the most difficult trick an aerial skier can perform. Canadians Steve Omischl, Warren Shouldice and Kyle Nissen also reached the final, which should ensure a pretty high decibel level at Cypress Mountain on Thursday night.

Ice Hockey: Women's Gold (Canada vs. USA) and Bronze (Sweden vs. Finland) Medal Games
It was inevitable that Team USA and Team Canada would clash for gold in these Olympic Games, after neither was tested in any of the teams' early games or in the semifinals. Now, Team USA faces a tough challenge. It must beat the Canadians, who won the past four of their pre-Olympic meetings, on their home soil in front of a Hockey Canada Place crowd that will undoubtedly be bursting with red. Can the U.S. pull off the upset? The men's team did it Sunday, so why not?

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- A Canada-Russia clash doesn't need any subplots. This rivalry has sold itself for 37½ years.

But like it or not, the bitter rivalry between Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin is impossible to ignore, whether it's when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals clash or in the pair's only international meeting in the 2005 world junior championship. Now, the NHL stars are set to face off in one of the biggest games they will ever play against each other in their careers.

"We know there's a lot of storylines and that's a huge one," Team Canada winger Jarome Iginla said after an 8-2 win over Germany on Tuesday night. "Canada-Russia, the history there, Sid-Ovechkin, for sure. But as players, we're not sitting there watching and wondering about [them]. We want to win that game. We're not looking for [Crosby] to just do it by himself."

Ovechkin has been a one-man wrecking crew in these Olympics, as his big hits on Zdeno Chara and Jaromir Jagr have been the highlights in a very physical Games for him.

"I'm sure he's going to hit one guy, if not more. I wouldn't be surprised," Crosby said after Tuesday night's win. "But that's part of the game and it's going to be tough, it's going to be a battle. It's part of the game, and we expect that. I don't expect us to be intimidated; it's going to be tough, though."

We'd love to tell you what Ovechkin had to say about the big game with Crosby and Team Canada, but the Russian superstar once again did not speak to any media after Russia's practice Tuesday. Guess he'll do his talking on the ice Wednesday night.

Another subplot in Wednesday's game sees Crosby face off against Penguins teammates Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar.

"It's something that we probably thought sooner or later would happen," Crosby said. "It's not a huge surprise. I've played against Orps [Team USA's Brooks Orpik] and now it's Geno and Gonch. You know what? That's what we expected, and we're going to play hard. I don't expect them to let up, and from my side, I don't think it's going to happen. It's going to be intense."

Ovechkin, Malkin, it doesn't matter. It's Canada-Russia, and Crosby grew up watching those games. Now he's part of one.

"I mean, that's a big rivalry, we all know it. It's something that everyone was talking about before the Olympics and whether they thought it would happen in the quarterfinals or whenever," Crosby said. "The fact is, we've got a big quarterfinal game and the fact that it's them just adds more to it. I expect it to be a pretty incredible atmosphere."

video

ESPN TOP HEADLINES

MORE FROM THE WEB