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Category: Winter Olympics

Sweden picks experienced but battered squad

Defending Olympic hockey champion Sweden announced its roster today for the Vancouver Olympics, selecting 13 players from the team that won gold in Turin, Italy, in 2006.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is in line for his fourth Olympic appearance, as is Ottawa Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson.

But Alfredsson recently hurt his shoulder, one of many injuries that could undermine Sweden's hopes for a repeat.

-- Helene Elliott

Kings' Frolov not named to Russian Olympic roster

Frolov_300 Kings winger Alexander Frolov, a member of Russia's 2006 Olympic team at the Turin Games, was left off his country's roster for the Vancouver Olympics.

The roster was announced Friday in Moscow by Coach Viacheslav Bykov, himself a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, and it's deep at every position

Bykov picked 14 NHL players, led by Washington's Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Sergei Gonchar was nominated to his fourth Olympic team. The remaining nine players come from the KHL, although many -- including Sergei Fedorov of Metallurg Magnitogorsk -- have played in the NHL.

Here's the entire roster, and it's one wow after another. Start with Ilya Bryzgalov -- enjoying a terrific season with Phoenix -- Evgeni Nabokov of San Jose and Semyon Varlamov of Washington in goal and move on ot a defense that's mobile and should be able to score a lot with Gonchar and Edmonton's Denis Grebeshkov.  Up front, there's a load of talent led by Ovechkin, Semin, Fedorov,  Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk and Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk. The erratic Frolov, with nine goals and 24 points in 36 games, couldn't crack that group.

Russia, winner of the last two world championships, is considered a strong gold medal contender at Vancouver and for very good reasons.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Kings winger Alexander Frolov celebrates after scoring a goal against the Stars earlier this month. Photo credit: Harry How / Getty Images

Michelle Kwan, Dan Jansen and Bonnie Blair to ride on Rose Parade float

Olympic medalists Michelle Kwan, Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen will be joined by six American Olympic hopefuls on a Rose Parade float entitled "Quest for the Best" Jan. 1 in Pasadena.

Kwan, a two-time figure skating medalist, and speedskaters Blair (six medals) and Jansen (1994 gold medalist) will share billing on the Anheuser-Busch float with aspiring Olympians Shannon Bahrke (freestyle skiing), Steve Fisher (snowboarding), Steve Holcomb (bobsled), Katherine Reutter (speedskating), Rebecca Sorenson (skeleton) and Marco Sullivan (alpine skiing).

And for fans of the Clydesdales that will pull the float, that lineup will be Dick (wheel horse), Fez (wheel horse), Tim (wheel-body horse), Bernie (wheel-body horse), Alan (body horse), Scooby (swing horse), Mike (swing-lead horse) and Dave (swing-lead horse). 

-- Helene Elliott


 

Ducks will be scrutinized -- for the wrong reasons

The vultures are circling, even though the Ducks’ carcass is still breathing.

Ducks-logo Fifteen NHL scouts were given credentials for their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at the Honda Center, a sure sign the last-place Ducks are considering personnel moves or already have some changes in the works.

Scouts often time their visits to Southern California for when the weather in Canada is coldest or when the Ducks and Kings have several home games within a few days. But 15 scouts is a lot to have at a game so soon before the March 3 trading deadline, and it’s likely the Ducks will look different by the time they end the seven-game homestand that starts tonight.

No doubt those scouts took General Manager Bob Murray at his word when he told The Times last week, “There's going to be a lot of players going through the turnstiles going out the door before coaches go out the door here. And our players better get that through their thick skulls.”

An 0-3-1 trip that ended with a mindlessly abominable game at Pittsburgh apparently was enough reason for Murray to make at least some of those players available as he tries to keep his team from falling out of the playoff chase. The Ducks entered Thursday’s game nine points out of eighth in the West, though they have two games in hand on Phoenix.

Centers Saku Koivu and Ryan Carter were described as doubtful for the game, Koivu because of a groin strain and Carter because of a bruised foot. Center MacGregor Sharp, called up from Bakersfield of the ECHL, was scheduled to make his NHL debut.

Asked if he felt exasperated, angry, or frustrated, Coach Randy Carlyle chose all of the above — and added a word of his own.

“I think embarrassment is probably one of the words that comes to mind when you go through stretches which we were going through,” Carlyle said. “We’ve talked about it. We’ve reviewed it. We’ve tried different methods to stimulate. And right now the No. 1 thing that’s most evident is that our work ethic is not where it needs to be.”

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Jennifer Kirk blog: U.S. women must hope a weak beginning turns into a strong ending at Vancouver

6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a6214ac6970b Jennifer Kirk, who won the 2000 world junior figure skating championship, finished third at the U.S. championships in 2004 and fourth in 2005, will write a weekly blog for The Times providing insights into the skating world during the months leading into the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Since retiring from figure skating in 2005, Kirk, 25, has been working on obtaining a college degree in broadcast journalism and has spent the last few months blogging about skating at Trueslant.com/jenniferkirk.

Americans Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu came to the weekend’s Cup of China event with high hopes. Facing a relatively weak field, both had a reasonable shot at medaling. 

It was shocking, then, when the ladies’ podium was void of an American flag. After dealing with their respective struggles in Beijing, Flatt and Nagasu were left with disappointment and empty hands heading home from their first Grand Prix event of this Olympic season.

What’s most significant about the weekend’s event isn’t that Flatt and Nagasu left a relatively mid-level Grand Prix event without a medal, but rather what it means for the larger hopes for American ladies’ figure skating.

Without a clear standout star among the American women, to some degree, the hopes of an Olympic medal rests in the hands of a relatively unpredictable group of young women who have yet to establish themselves as consistent threats for international medals. 

This week’s Cup of China served as a microcosm of this predicament. That said, it’s important to note that although the Cup of China was a disappointment, Flatt and Nagasu have the ability to rebound from the weekend’s setbacks and revive American ladies’ skating. But it will take some work.

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Jennifer Kirk: Plushenko must be reckoned with--but he's not a lock for Vancouver gold

Jenniferkirk Jennifer Kirk, who won the 2000 world junior figure skating championship, finished third at the U.S. championships in 2004 and fourth in 2005, will write a weekly blog for The Times providing insights into the skating world during the final months leading into the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Since retiring from figure skating in 2005, Kirk, 25, has been working on obtaining a college degree in broadcast journalism and has spent the last few months blogging about skating at Trueslant.com/jenniferkirk.

When reigning Olympic gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko announced his plans to compete this season following a 3½-year hiatus from the competitive arena, most were initially skeptical about the success of his return. Would he be in competitive form? Was he going to be able to adapt to the various changes in the judging system? Would he regain his standing as the No. 1 male skater in the world?

Last weekend Plushenko answered those questions.

Winning his first and only Grand Prix event of the season, Plushenko kicked off his return to competitive skating with a bang. Skating a squeaky-clean long program and commanding the ice in Moscow, he picked up exactly where he left off in 2006. Not only did Plushenko take the gold, but he crushed the competition, winning by 25 points over Takahiko Kozuka of Japan.

What was most impressive about Plushenko’s skating in Moscow was his unwavering confidence. Though  his victory dance after the completion of his long program could be perceived as cocky by some, this blend of cockiness and confidence proved to be the reigning Olympic champion’s winning ingredient. Plushenko seems incredibly committed to his quest of winning a second Olympic crown, and after two events of the Grand Prix series he’s the front-runner heading into the Games.

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Kings' Dustin Brown ready for NHL season and Olympics

Fabforum

Reporting from Chicago

Kings forward Dustin Brown was in Chicago Thursday for the U.S. Olympic media summit, an event that brings together prospective Olympians from various winter sports to meet print, electronic and Internet media representatives.

Brown, who attended Team USA's orientation camp last week in Chicago, figures to play a prominent role for the U.S. in Vancouver because General Manager Brian Burke and Coach Ron Wilson want the team to bang and be physical. He said the orientation camp was unlike Team Canada's camp, which featured hard scrimmages and was scrutinized to the last detail by the Canadian media.

"It was good. It was more relaxed, I think, than Canada from the sound of it," Brown said. "We went on the ice a couple times. It was more like getting to know each other. I know most of the guys, anyway. There are some guys that are getting their first taste of USA Hockey and being around other players, so I think it was more of a get-to-know-each-other type thing."

There was no time to introduce systems or.....

 

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Kwan to skate in show ... for fun or a comeback?

Kwan Figure skater Michelle Kwan, whose trophy case is lacking only an Olympic gold medal, has left her options open regarding the Vancouver Games next February and whether she will make one more attempt at that elusive prize. Hip surgery, getting a degree from Denver University and her diplomatic work for the State Department have kept her busy, but she's now planning to skate in front of an audience for the first time in three years.

Is it just a favor to world champion Kim Yu-na, who invited her to perform in Seoul, South Korea, in August? Or the first triple salchow toward another Olympic appearance for Kwan, who will turn 29 on Tuesday?

Time will tell. But Kwan's agent, Shep Goldberg, confirmed Friday that Kwan will skate in Kim's show, to take place Aug. 14-16. The last time the five-time world champion and nine-time U.S. champion performed in front of a crowd was August of 2006, six months after an injury forced her to withdraw from the Turin Olympics.

"Michelle has turned down other invitations, but she and Yu-na have a mutual admiration society going," Goldberg said. "Michelle is feeling healthy and has her abilities up to the standards she sets for herself, which are very high standards."

Kwan won a silver medal at Nagano in 1998 and bronze at Salt Lake City in 2002. To compete in Vancouver, she would have to go through regional events and win one of two Olympic berths at the U.S. championships, which will be held next January in Spokane, Wash.

Her fellow Southern Californian and longtime rival, Turin silver medalist Sasha Cohen, has already announced she will try for a place on the Vancouver Olympic team. The upcoming figure skating season should be very interesting.

-- Helene Elliott

Photo: Michelle Kwan appears at the American Idol Season 8 Grand Finale on May 20. Credit: Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Doughty, Niedermayer, Perry and Getzlaf get call to Olympic orientation camp

Drew_240 Kudos to the management of the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team for actually paying attention to teams that play west of New Jersey and extending invitations to one King and three Ducks to the orientation camp that will take place in Calgary in late August.

Drew Doughty of the Kings, 19, was the youngest player invited to the camp, the first step toward participating in the 2010 Vancouver Games. He's among the 16 defensemen asked to attend the camp, a group that also includes Ducks defenseman Scott Niedermayer and former Ducks Francois Beauchemin and Chris Pronger.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry of the Ducks were among the 25 forwards invited. They'll rub elbows with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla and surprise invitee Dan Cleary of the Red Wings, who's better known for grit than sheer talent.

Being invited to the camp doesn't assure anyone of a spot, and players not invited to the orientation camp can still be added to the Olympic roster, but the recognition is significant and well-deserved.

-- Helene Elliott 

Photo: Drew Doughty. Photo credit: Anja Niedringhaus / Associated Press

Brian Orser heads list of World Figure Skating Hall of Fame inductees

The World Figure Skating Hall of Fame announced its class of 2009, whose members will be inducted during the upcoming World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles.

The group includes people who made an impact on the sport on and off the ice. The hall itself is located in Colorado Springs, but the ceremony will take place March 28 at Staples Center.

It will be followed by a reception at the Wilshire Grand, with tickets set at $50. For more information,  click here or check at the U.S. Figure Skating booth on the main level at Staples Center during the championships.

Probably the most familiar honoree is Brian Orser, the two-time Olympic silver medalist from Canada who also won the 1987 world title as well as four silver and one bronze medal at the world championships. The timing is quite convenient for him: he'd be here, anyway, because he coaches South Korean skater Kim Yu-Na, one of the favorites to win the women's title.

Another name familiar to those of a certain generation is Aja Zanova, now Vrzanova, who became the first world champion to defect from a Soviet bloc country when she left Czechoslovakia in 1950. A three-time European champion and two-time world champion, she's credited with being the first woman to land a double lutz jump in competition, at the 1949 World Championships.

She spent many years skating in Ice Follies and Ice Capades before becoming an Ice Capades talent scout from 1968-90.

Also to be honored in the category of outstanding competitors are Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini of Canada, two-time Olympic pairs competitors and the 1984 world champions.

In the category of outstanding contributors making a significant impact on the sport in a non-skating role, the Hall of Fame will honor Joyce Hisey, a 1952 ice dance silver medalist who later became a judge. She's also from Canada. (Hey, Canada gave us Wayne Gretzky. The least we can do is honor a few Canadians during the world championships).

In the category of outstanding contributors with a creative/professional impact on figure skating, the honoree is Willy Bietak, a former Austrian pairs champion who became head of a production company in Santa Monica that specializes in family entertainment. His company, Willy Bietak Productions, also provides portable ice skating rinks for the public and ice surfaces for special events, including the opening and closing ceremonies at the 2002 Olympics.

Honored for contributing to the above categories before 1939 is the late Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin (1871-1956). He was a six-time Russian champion, 1903 world silver medalist and two-time European medalist (1904, 1908). Using a pseudonym because skating was then frowned upon, he won a gold medal at the 1908 Olympics for special figures. He later was banned from continued competition by national authorities. Among his students was two-time Olympic pairs champion Oleg Protopopov.

--Helene Elliott

Belbin and Agosto ready for testing

Benjamin Agosto and Tanith Belbin skate in the pair's ice dance final at the Skate America figure skating competition in Everett, Wash. Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, the best U.S. figure skating ice-dance team over the last five years, will make their second, and final, appearance before a panel of judges Thursday at their home rink in Aston, Pa., outside Philadelphia to show that Agosto has fully recovered from a back injury that kept the team out of U.S. Nationals and unable to qualify for the March 22-29 World Figure Skating Championships at Staples Center.

The five-time U.S. champions performed limited portions of their programs for judges last Thursday.

Belbin said she and Agosto were expected to do three complete programs Thursday, and besides a panel of judges, Agosto's doctor, who has treated his back injury, will be on hand. "The judges need to see all three of our programs on the same day," Belbin said. "That shouldn't be a problem."

Agosto said that because he and Belbin missed nationals and a chance to skate under the pressure that comes with needing to qualify for the world team, it was worthwhile to skate in front of judges, even in an empty arena, to earn their spot to worlds.

"We don't have a full audience, of course, but it is good to have extra pressure," Agosto said. "We have to do our job and in the mode of competition."

Short of Agosto's back collapsing, it seems unlikely the pair won't be skating in Los Angeles. The results of the world championships determine how many spots each country gets for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and Belbin and Agosto are the defending Olympic silver medalists.

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Ben Agosto and Tanith Belbin skate in the pairs ice-dance final at the Skate America  competition in Everett, Wash. Credit: Kevin P. Casey / Associated Press

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