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Hockey Thu Feb 25 2010

Americans Face Feisty Finns in Semis, All Hawks Olympians in Action

After surviving a tough battle to beat Switzerand 2-0 on Zach Parise's pair of goals, the United States hockey team takes on Finland at 2pm today live on NBC and streaming at nbcolympics.com.

The Swiss and goalie Jonas Hiller put up a fight, but the U.S. continued to throw shots at the net until Parise finally connected after a number of close calls. Parise's empty-netter closed it out to set up a rematch with the team that knocked the Americans out of the 2006 games in Turin.

Finland also survived a tough game against the Czechs, earning a similar 2-0 shutout. Both teams are known for their physical grit, and with how U.S. goalie Ryan Miller and Finland goalie Mikka Kipprusoff have been playing, the first team to score may be the winner. While Finland is looking to return to the gold-medal game they lost in 2006, the Americans will have their first chance to medal since the 2002 Salt Lake City games, using a team that brought in an infusion of youth, like Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and the Devils' Parise. Though Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has carried the Americans with his strong play, the U.S. needs to get their offense, and specifically their power play, more involved to have a shot at the gold.

In the other semifinal at 8:30pm, the host Canadians, hot off a 7-3 rout over Russia, face the upstart Slovakians, who upset Sweden. Following a shaky round-robin, Canada has been a force their past two games to put themselves back in medal contention, with one of their key players being the Blackhawks Jonathon Toews. Toews has picked up seven assists, but more importantly, played some solid defense in shadowing and shutting down the Russians Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Given how Canada has dismantled their last two opponents, they're bound to be favored to advance to Sunday's gold-medal game, but Slovakia has surprised in this tourney.

After beating the Russians in a shootout in the round-robin, Slovakia upset the defending champs Sweden 4-3, with Hawks forward Tomas Kopecky notching the game-winning goal and Marian Hossa adding three assists. Already having achieved their best ever Olympic finish, the Slovaks have nothing left to lose, but will face a tough task in trying to best the host Canadians.

While the rest of the Blackhawks returned to practice yesterday before Tuesday's resumption of the NHL schedule (Chicago will take on the Islanders in New York before facing the Oilers at the United Center Wednesday), the six Olympic Hawks will chase their medal dreams this weekend.

 
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