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Odds are, plenty of Blackhawks will be going to Olympics

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Updated: February 8, 2014 6:27AM



Shortly after 10 a.m. Central time Tuesday, the Internet will implode and Canada will break off the continent and drift into the Arctic Ocean, jarred loose by the
simultaneous fits of rage of tens of millions of hockey fans.

Yes, after months — years, really — of furious debate, Steve Yzerman is
going to reveal the 25 members of Canada’s Olympic hockey team. Russia, Sweden, Finland and Slovakia, among others, will do the same. Few teams, if any, have more candidates in the running than the Blackhawks, who already have had two Olympians named (Patrick Kane by the United States and Michal Rozsival by the Czech Republic) and one significant snub (Brandon Saad by the United States).

Here’s an educated guess about each of the remaining players’ chances of being picked by his home country.

Canada

Jonathan Toews: How good is Team Canada going
to be? Toews, one of the top all-around players in the world, might be the third-line center. That good. Toews is also a candidate to be Canada’s captain.

Odds of making the team: 100 percent.

Duncan Keith: The 2010 Norris Trophy winner is playing better than ever. He leads all NHL defensemen with 42 points, he can quarterback the power play and he’s a healthy plus-18. Look for him on Canada’s top pairing, possibly with the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Odds: 100 percent.

Patrick Sharp: One of the hottest players in the league also has been one of the hottest topics for debate. Sharp likely started the season on the outside looking in, but he’s sixth in the league in points and second in goals to the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin. With two hat tricks in a five-game span, Sharp has forced Yzerman’s hand. It helps that he can play wing or center, is strong on faceoffs and plays a two-way game.

Odds: 80 percent.

Brent Seabrook: Seabrook was the seventh
defenseman in Vancouver in 2010 and is fighting to be the seventh or eighth blue-liner this time around. The bruising Seabrook is having one of his finest seasons, with 31 points and a plus-22 rating (tops among defensemen).

Odds: 40 percent.

Corey Crawford: Crawford has proved himself to be a big-game goalie, backstopping the Hawks to a Stanley Cup. But a groin injury cost him a few weeks at the worst time. He’s fighting with the Coyotes’ Mike Smith to be Canada’s third goalie behind the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo and the Canadiens’ Carey Price. Luongo’s reported foot/ankle injury might complicate things.

Odds: 30 percent.

Sweden

Niklas Hjalmarsson: One of the more underrated pieces of the Hawks’ two Cup runs, the smooth and reliable Hjalmarsson will be an anchor for Sweden now and in the future.

Odds: 100 percent.

Johnny Oduya: Earlier in the season, Oduya said he hoped he could ‘‘sneak in’’ because of his ready-made chemistry with Hjalmarsson. But he should get in on his own merits. It helps that the Jets’ Toby Enstrom has opted to stay home.

Odds: 60 percent.

Marcus Kruger: Even Olympic teams need fourth-line centers, penalty-killers and grinders. Kruger, with his mix of skill and grit and his vast improvement on
faceoffs, is an attractive candidate for that role.

Odds: 40 percent.

Slovakia

Marian Hossa: A veteran of three Olympics, with 25 points in 15 career games, Hossa remains one of the best two-way players in the world. His back has held up surprisingly well, and he said he’ll play rather than rest up for the stretch run.

Odds: 100 percent.

Michal Handzus: The 36-year-old center’s lack of speed might be a detriment on the bigger international ice surface, but he might be a valuable role player for the Slovaks — good at faceoffs, strong on the penalty kill and reliable in his own end. He has four goals and three assists in two previous Olympics.

Odds: 75 percent.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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