He won't wear the C in Vancouver, but make no mistake: this is Sidney Crosby's team. The Kid proved his worthiness during Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup last spring, revealing a competitive fire and willingness to do the dirty work in the greasy areas that should set the tone for the home team. Don't overlook his newly refined prowess in the circles. Possession off the draw will be a critical aspect of Canada's game plan.
2 of 18Lou Capozzola/SI
The last 12 months have been marked by the sort of record-smashing achievements that indicate a career winding to a close, but this 37-year-old remains at the top of his game. He may not rank among the leaders in goals-against or save percentage, but Brodeur is tops in the most important category: wins. That's the edge he brings to Team Canada -- the confidence that he'll always make one more stop than the guy at the other end of the rink.
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The 1987 Canada Cup taught a talented but seemingly unmotivated former No. 1 pick named Mario Lemieux how to be a winner. Could this event do the same for Thornton? He won't be buried as a fourth-line checker as he was in Torino. The NHL's top scorer since the lockout will be expected to make a significant contribution on the score sheet. Jumbo's ability to step up to that challenge is critical not only to Canada, but to the perennially underachieving Sharks who need a new look Jumbo Joe to live up to their own championship aspirations.
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He's not the best player in the world simply because of his preternatural skill and strength. It's because he embraces the big moments. Just think back to last season's playoff series against the Penguins. Ovechkin's at his best when the stakes are highest, and there's nothing he wants more than to win gold on Canadian ice. He's had success representing his country in Canada before: at 17, he scored six goals in six games to lead Russia to gold at the 2003 World Juniors in Halifax.
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As talented as Ovechkin is, the Russians would remain a threat for gold even with him on the sidelines. You can't say that about Markov. The sublimely gifted defender will be the 25-minute mainstay of a blueline that's seen as the weak link in a gold medal quest. Alongside Sergei Gonchar, his partner at the 2007 World Championships, Markov provides the Russians with a strong defensive presence and the transitional ability to maximize the in-flight skills of the country's fleet forwards.
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Team USA has never entered a major event with the most talent, but it has won a World Cup and two Olympic golds on the strength of superlative goaltending. This year's squad lacks depth and experience, but Miller may be the ultimate weapon. The early Vezina favorite provides calming influence and big stops that allow the young Americans to focus on their duties. "I don't think there are any [holes in his game]," Canadian assistant coach Lindy Ruff said. "Otherwise, [other] NHL teams would have [found them] by now."
7 of 18Lou Capozzola/SI; Harry How/Getty Images
At 21, he'll be the youngest player for Brian Burke's Next Gen Americans, but that doesn't mean he won't be carrying a heavy load. With so little strength in the middle, Burke's team will rely heavily on its wingers making Kane, with his eye-popping speed and finishing ability, a focal point of the offense. He was dynamite at the 2008 World Championships, netting three goals and 10 points in seven games.
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A pair of wonky ankles suggest he won't be the same player he was when he led Sweden to Olympic gold in 1994 and 2006, but they didn't prevent his surprise naming to the roster of the defending champs. With 15 points in 10 games for MoDo of the Swedish Elitserien, Foppa clearly hasn't lost his touch. He'll be counted on for leadership and his physical presence.
9 of 18David E. Klutho/SI
With Mats Sundin retired, Daniel Alfredsson injured and Forsberg in decline, the timing of Sedin's breakthrough season couldn't be better for a team that needs its Next Gen stars to step into more prominent roles. The NHL's leading scorer has transformed his game over the past two months, working harder down low and shooting so often that teams can no longer simply defend the pass. Playing alongside brother Daniel at his home rink in Vancouver, he gives the Swedes a real chance to repeat as champs.
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With talent like Marian Hossa, Zdeno Chara and Jaroslav Halak at his disposal, Slovakian GM Peter Bondra was going to ice a fairly salty team. Adding a healthy and highly productive Gaborik gives him an arsenal that shouldn't be overlooked. The NHL's top goal scorer will key an offense that's expected to be up-tempo in its quest for a first-ever Olympic hockey medal.
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The Finns return 14 players from the 2006 silver medal-winners in Turin, but a newcomer has them liking their chances for gold. Kiprusoff, who passed on participating in 2002 and 2006, created a national furor last fall when he said he'd accept an Olympic invite only if he was the team's starter. He didn't get that guarantee, but Kipper is expected to be the go-to guy, giving the Finns a game-changer between the pipes.
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He won't be the dominating force he was back in 1999 when he was NHL MVP, but, at 37, Jagr will still be the heart of the medal-contending Czech squad. The only holdover from the gold-winning side in 1998, Jagr has spent the past two seasons in Russia where he currently leads Avangard in scoring. That kind of touch, especially on the power play, will be key for a team that lacks the offensive firepower of past squads.
13 of 18Lou Capozzola/SI
Quick...name the leading Czech-born scorer in the NHL. Alright, with his photo here we weren't exactly asking you to solve the Voynich Manuscript, but the emergence of Plekanec as one of the game's most graceful passers has been one of the season's unlikeliest success stories. Czech GM Vladimir Rucizka said Plekanec will center the top line between Jagr and Patrik Elias, which should make for a dynamic unit and an intriguing audition for a new NHL team. The Habs may have trouble re-signing the impending RFA, and Elias' Devils could use a talented pivot. If the duo has chemistry...
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Not much chance of the Germans repeating their bronze medal performance from the 1932 Lake Placid Games, but Ehrhoff leads an experienced group that can hang around long enough to give its opposition fits. The 27-year-old defender, who'll be competing in his third Games, has come into his own since being dealt to the Canucks last summer. As he's grown more reliable in his own end, Ehrhoff also has become more confident when it comes to making decisions with the puck. His transition skills and poise on the power play will be the key to the success of the German offense.
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He won't be the most closely scrutinized player on the roster -- all eyes will be on junior-aged defenders Roman Josi (Predators) and Luca Sbisa (Ducks) -- but Hiller provides the seventh-ranked Swiss with their only real chance of sneaking into medal contention. With offense likely to be at a premium (Canadian-born Hnat Domenichelli leads a disciplined but sparsely talented group up front), Hiller will be challenged to limit foes to two or fewer goals. It could happen: his backup, Martin Gerber, led the Swiss to upsets of Canada and the Czechs in 2006.
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With 15 of its 23 players coming from Dynamo Riga, the 16th-place team in the KHL, the Latvians are set to serve as the cannon fodder for Group B. Just two fair-to-spare NHLers were named to the roster -- Karlis Skrastins of the Stars and Philadelphia's Oskars Bartulis -- so expect the Latvians to rely heavily on Sprukts, a Bertuzzi-sized pivot who played 14 games with the Florida Panthers. A gifted set-up man with soft hands and a strong physical presence, he'll be the catalyst for whatever offense this team can muster.
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The Norwegians may dominate the Winter Games -- their 280 total medals give them a healthy lead of 63 over second-place Russia -- but they won't be adding to their haul at GM Place. Icing a team with just one NHLer -- Philadelphia defender Ole-Kristian Tollefsen -- they're making their first appearance at the Games since the field was opened to pros. The team will be paced by Skroder, the 31-year-old vet who led Swedish Elitserien with 30 goals and 59 points last season while playing for MoDo.
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With their four NHL representatives battling injuries or inactivity, don't expect another miracle run to the medal round from the Belarusians. Surgery to the left knee of brother Andrei is likely to sideline the Canadiens' sniper for the the Games, leaving the spotlight on the younger Kostitsyn. Sergei has a wonky ankle of his own and has played unevenly since fighting a demotion to the minors, but he has the kind of speed and puck-handling skill that makes him this team's most dangerous offensive weapon.
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