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Unbeaten men’s hockey squads still face challenges

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SOCHI, Russia — Canada, Sweden and the U.S. men all made it through the first week of the Olympic hockey tournament without a loss. Their reward is an extra day off before the medal chase begins.

Early perfection isn’t always an advantage in this tense tournament, however.

No team that went unbeaten in group play has won an Olympic gold medal since the NHL joined the games in 1998. Every champion was forced to regroup after getting beaten early in the tournament, from the Czech Republic in 1998 to the host Canadians four years ago in Vancouver.

Olympic veterans realize the tone of this 12-day event changes after the opening-round games. Although nobody is under as much pressure as the host Russians, every player realizes one mistake in the second week can destroy their nation’s Olympic aspirations.

“Obviously these (elimination) games always have a bit more of a different feel, but you don’t want to have to change the way you play a whole lot,” Canada captain Sidney Crosby said. “I think we’ve been playing the right way here for three games. I think we’ve gotten better.”

U.S.-Russia draws ratings

The numbers are in for the thrilling USA-Russia men’s hockey game, and they’re huge.

NBC Sports Network says 4.1 million people in the United States tuned into the Americans’ dramatic 3-2 victory, a record number for a hockey game on the channel. When the game when to a shootout, 6.4 million people tuned in to watch T.J. Oshie score four times to lead Team USA to the win. The ratings are even more impressive considering the game aired on Saturday morning back home.

Kopecky out for the Olympics

Slovakia forward Tomas Kopecky has been ruled out for the remainder of the Olympics.

Team spokesman Tomas Stulajter says Kopecky will not play again in the Sochi Games because of an upper-body injury.

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