The United States will take on Canada in the semi-finals of the Men’s Olympic hockey tournament in Sochi, Russia. This game will be a rematch from the 2010 Olympics – held in Vancouver, Canada – that had the gold medal on the line.
If that news wasn’t big enough, Canada will have to go into the game without John Tavares, a center from the New York Islanders. Tavares suffered an injury in Canada’s quarter-final matchup against Latvia.
The injury to Tavares has reignited the discussion as to whether NHL players should represent their countries in the Olympics after this year. The Islanders will now be without their captain for the remainder of the season as Tavares tore his MCL. This has frustrated many people in connection with the Islanders, especially their general manager Garth Snow.
However, as is the case with most stories, there is a second side that is not being discussed too much.
Matt Duchene, 23, is now back in the lineup for Canada for the semi-final game against the United States. Duchene is a rising star in the NHL, and now is his chance to have an effect on the international level as well.
Duchene leads the Avalanche in points, 50, this season (19G, 31A). He has played on a line with Ryan O’Reilly for most of the season, with the other winger being rotated between PA Parenteau, Nathan MacKinnon and Jamie McGinn.
Duchene will matchup in the semi-finals with his teammate from the Colorado Avalanche, Paul Stastny, in the game on Friday morning. Both players are listed as the center for the 4th lines for their squads. Duchene is slated to skate between Rick Nash (New York Rangers) and Patrick Sharp (Chicago Blackhawks), while Stastny will stick with his line of Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens) and TJ Oshie (St. Louis Blues).
Canada is the most difficult roster to crack for NHL players. There have been arguments that if Canada could send two teams to the Olympics, their secondary roster would also contend for a medal. Duchene was selected to this team, beating out several other popular candidates like Claude Giroux and Joe Thornton. Outside of Colorado, his selection was criticized a little bit in favor of one of these other players.
If Duchene is able to step up and be a key factor to a Canadian victory over the United States tomorrow, all of those criticisms will be gone.
Many people believed that after Tavares, the first overall selection in the 2009 NHL entry draft, went down injured, Canada’s chances of winning its semi-final matchup against the United States may have taken a hit. Duchene, the third overall selection in that same draft, will have the chance to save the day for Canada.