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Olympics: Jetlag Canada gets first taste of big ice

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Canada shrugged off jetlag and held its first practice at the Sochi Olympics on Monday with coach Mike Babcock saying while his team is still progressing he feels good about their medal chances.

"Here is our opportunity," Babcock said. "It is a new opportunity. We will be a work in progress just like every team at the Olympics.

"We just got to keep getting better. We have good talent. Now we got to become a good team."

Defending champion Canada won the men's hockey tournament four years ago in Vancouver. But this time they are seeking to win their first Olympic gold outside of North America since 1952 in Oslo, Norway.

Their blueprint for success in Sochi is to go with big forwards who have plenty of scoring touch, backed by a mobile defence.

Led by the dynamic forwards Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews, Canada also boasts an excellent core of swift-skating defencemen like Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty and Shea Webber.

Crosby said Monday that the key in a short tournament like the Olympics is to get off to a strong start.

"We only have a couple of days before our first game, so we just have to make sure we're all focused on the details and making sure we're all on the same page," said Crosby of Canada's first game against Norway on Thursday.

"You have to progress as it goes on, but we want to make sure that we start off on the right foot.

"At a short term event like this, the more you can get some consistency and get to know the guys with new faces too, the better."

- Two most dynamic players -

Crosby flew into Sochi Monday morning on the same flight as Russian star Alex Ovechkin as they were part of the first group of NHLers arrive ahead of the start of the ice hockey tournament on Wednesday.

Hockey's two most dynamic players will renew their rivalry in Sochi.

Four years ago in Vancouver, Crosby scored the overtime goal to lift Canada to a gold medal with a 3-2 win over the USA. Ovechkin is hoping to achieve something similar but this time on Russian soil.

"Obviously with Russia playing here, and being a proud hockey nation, they want their best showing," Crosby said.

Babcock said the two things they tried to accomplish with Monday evening practice was to keep the players up as late as possible to try and combat jet lag and get a feel for the ice at the Bolshoi Ice Dome.

Babcock's charges are not going to have much time to get used to the bigger European size ice surface.

"There is no question when you grow up your whole life playing on one surface you are probably pretty comfortable with that surface as we are in North American.

"So there is a little adjustment and we will get it worked out," he said.

The last two times the Olympics were held outside of North America, Canada failed to medal.

They were eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2006 in Turin and finished fourth in 1998 Nagano.

Forward Toews says this is his second time playing in Russia and he looks forward to competing in a hockey crazed nation.

"I had a chance to play the world championships in Moscow," Toews said. "It was great experience. It was very different from playing hockey in Canada or US but people love hockey here."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140210/olympics-jetlag-canada-gets-first-taste-big-ice