SOCHI, Russia -- Canada was a second-half team at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Cheap Oilers Jerseys . The medal intake in Sochi is forecasted to happen at a more measured pace. Starting with Saturdays mens snowboard slopestyle and womens moguls, Canada has at least one legitimate medal shot, if not more, virtually every day until the closing ceremonies Feb. 23. Chef de mission Steve Podborski and his assistants Jean-Luc Brassard and France St. Louis intend to be present at events where a Canadian is a front-runner for a medal. "I would say were booked every day," Podborski said at a Canadian Olympic Committee news conference Thursday. The host country won 18 of its 26 medals in Vancouver during the back half of the Games. Ten of the 14 gold medals came in the second half, including four on the final weekend. Sports making their Olympic debut helped balance the schedule of Canadas medal prospects in Sochi. Mens and womens snowboard slopestyle, the figure skating team event and the luge relay are among the new events over the first eight days of competition in which Canada has solid medal prospects. Thats in addition to Canadas strength in the entrenched sports of alpine skiing, moguls, short-track speedskating and cross-country skiing. "Sure there are new sports and we happen to be very, very good in the new ones because we are a great sporting nation," Podborski said. "With the support were getting now from corporate Canada, Own The Podium and the Government of Canada, we have an opportunity to be good in the traditional sports as well and thats where well make our great gains in the areas where are athletes are getting better . . . cross-country, alpine skiing." Canadas athletes have been waging fierce foosball tournaments in their village lounge while they await Fridays opening ceremonies, according to Podborski. But Olympic competition started early for some Canadians with Thursdays preliminary rounds. Canada sat in second place, two points behind host Russia, after the first day of the new team figure skating event. Torontos Patrick Chan was third in the mens short program, then Meagan Duhamel of Lively, Ont., and Eric Radford of Balmertown, Ont., were second in the pairs short to give Canada 17 of a possible 20 points after the first two events. Sebastien Toutant of LAssomption, Que., and Max Parrot of Bromont, Que., advanced to the mens snowboard slopestyle final Saturday, while Charles Reid of Mont-Tremblant, Que., and Reginas Mark McMorris will attempt to join them via the semifinal earlier in the day. The Dufour-Lapointe sisters from Montreal -- Justine, Chloe and Maxime -- all qualified for Saturdays womens moguls finals as did Audrey Robichaud of Quebec City. Reigning world champion Spencer OBrien of Courtney, B.C., qualified for the womens slopestyle final Sunday. Hockey Canada also made the decision to replace injured forward Steven Stamkos with Tampa Bay teammate Martin St. Louis. No competition is scheduled Friday because of the opening ceremonies. In addition to slopestyle and womens moguls on opening weekend, skiers Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., Calgarys Jan Hudec and Manny Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., are medal prospects in Sundays downhill. Canadas figure skaters are favoured to win a medal in the team event, which ends Sunday. Canadas objective in 2010 was to top the overall medal count and the target remains the same in Sochi. The host team was third in total medals, but won the gold-medal race four years ago. Because of the new sports, there are 36 more medals to be won in 2014 than in 2010. That will help fill Canadas coffers, but also those of top rivals Germany, Norway, the United States and host Russia. "Canada is here to compete and win," COC president Marcel Aubut said. "Our aim is to contend for the number one spot in medals won." "This is an ambitious goal, but we Canadians like it this way. Our athletes expect nothing less of themselves but the highest achievements." Added Podborski: "You dont try to come "somewhere up there." We expect great things in Canada now. Its an ideal approach. "We may not win the medal count this time. We may not win it the next time but one day we will because we are striving to be number one in the world in the medal count." While Canadas preparation for 2010 seems a successful model to copy for Sochi, the Canadian Olympic Committee took a different approach. The 2008 Summer Games in Beijing posed similar challenges to Sochi in terms of distance to travel, time-zone difference and unfamiliar language, food and culture. Virtually all of Canadas Olympians competed, trained or at least visited Beijing in the year prior to those Games to get comfortable with the place. The same practice was done for Sochi. There was less emphasis on pre-Games visits for the 2012 Summer Games in London. "If we look at the Beijing experience and we look at the Sochi experience, its actually very similar," COC chief sport officer Caroline Assalian says. "New and unfamiliar environment for most countries. "We ensured that the athletes and support teams as much as possible are familiar with this environment." The COC has conducted exit interviews with athletes, their coaches and support teams following Olympic Games since 2006 to better plan for the next. The athletes were asked "what made the difference in your performance?" "Their number one factor? Feeling part of a larger unified team, more than anything," Assalian said. "Thats what made the difference for them. Coaches and support team? Familiarity with the Olympic environment." And where Beijing was also a benchmark for Sochi was in Canadas conversion rate, which the number of athletes ranked in the top five at their most recent world championships make it onto the podium at the subsequent Olympic Games. The COC employs conversion rates to compare how Canadas athletes are performing compared to other countries. Even though Canada won just 18 medals in Beijing, the conversion rate there was 67 per cent compared to 59 per cent at the Winter Games of both 2010 and 2006, according to Assalian. The Canadian team needs at least match Beijings conversion rate to be in the hunt for the overall title in Sochi. "Our bar now is Beijing," Assalian says. "We know we need to convert better than we ever have at any Winter Olympic Games." The Canadian team will attempt this without the advantage it had in Vancouver and Whistler of home ice and home snow. Own The Podium chief executive officer Anne Merklinger says many winter sport teams have stronger leadership and better coaches since 2010. Both areas were priorities coming out of Vancouver and Whistler and she hopes improvements there compensate for the additional challenges of Sochi. "Weve come a long way in that regard," she says. "Without coaches, were behind the 8-ball. Its the most important success factor. "I think there are a number of examples where weve brought in great coaches, but weve lost some too. We need to find a way to continue to retain the good ones we have and attract new ones." "Were investing in that. Thats what it takes. Its a competitive industry." OTP oversees athletes competitive lives between Olympic Games and allocates about $62 million a year in federal government funding between summer and winter sports. The COC prepares athletes for the Games environment and looks after their needs and wants on the ground in Sochi. Grant Fuhr Jersey . Stiverne stopped Chris Arreola in the sixth round Saturday night, claiming the WBC heavyweight title belt vacated by Vitali Klitschko. Randy Gregg Jersey . And I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my experiences gained through International competition and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Seven NHL referees and six linesmen will be assigned upcoming games in Sochi by the IIHF as part of their 28-man officiating roster comprised of 14 refs and 14 linesmen.The Ottawa Senators made a low-risk investment, both in terms of picks and contract, in an effort to boost their offence. Numbers Game looks at the Senators getting Ales Hemsky from the Edmonton Oilers for a pair of draft picks. The Senators Get: RW Ales Hemsky. Hemsky, 30, is not the two-time 70-point scorer that he was earlier in his career, but there are some factors working in his favour, at least in terms of producing more offensively. For one thing, he has good possession numbers while facing high-quality opposition and starting an unsually-low (43.9%) percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone. If the Senators plug Hemskys playmaking skill alongside Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, that would have to be considered a much better situation for an offensive player than Hemskys role in Edmonton this year, where his most common centre was checker Boyd Gordon. The Senators are in tough to try and get into the playoffs -- four points out with 20 games remaining -- but its not impossible and adding Hemsky does give them a decent chance to have a second productive scoring line. Perhaps the real coup of the deal for the Senators is that they convinced the Oilers to retain half of Hemskys salary and while thats not a huge deal for a pending unrestricted free agent, it makes for a cheap addition of a top six forward. Thhe Oilers Get: A fifth-round pick and 2015 third-round pick. Boyd Gordon Jersey. The net return on this deal is remarkably little for the Oilers. Cumulatively, a fifth and third-round pick brings approximately a 36% chance of landing an NHL player, and that player is likely not going to be in the league for three or four years, at least. Its one thing to roll the dice on a few picks, but to also pick up half of Hemskys cap hit is a tad generous, but this is likely a function of how the Oilers have used Hemsky this season. If he was played in an offensive role throughout the year and put up points, there would be greater demand for his services which would obviously bring a better return. Since Hemsky was effectively playing on the Oilers third line, there is room to plug in the likes of Ryan Jones or Jesse Joensuu to fill the spot. Presumably there will be an attempt in the offseason to find a more suitable top nine forward to fill the void created by Hemskys departure. In any case, the Hemsky Era in Edmonton is over, after 477 points in 652 games, and hes going to have a decent shot to rehabilitate his offensive image before hitting free agency in the summer. Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook. ' ' '
The most under-rated team in the FBS resides in the great state of Michigan. Leon Durham Jersey . To the surprise of many, it isnt the Wolverines but their in-state rivals the Michigan State Spartans. Head Coach Mark Dantonio leads a capable offence, and one of the best defences the Big 10 has ever seen. Outside of a loss to Notre Dame back in September, the Spartans have been perfect, working their way up the BCS rankings where they currently sit 16th. With Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota and potentially Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship game still on the schedule, Michigan State has a chance to crack the Top 10 and wind up in the Rose Bowl. For a team you have heard very little about, the upside for the Spartans is incredibly high. And its well deserved. In their nine games, eight wins and one loss, the Spartans have given up more than 17 points just once. In their last three games theyve combined to give up just nine points total. They have allowed 11.6 points per game which is third-best in the FBS. Now paired with their daunting defence is an offence that has provided capable of keeping pace. Sophomore Connor Cook has taken over as the starting quarterback and has tossed 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Jeremy Langford has done a respectable job replacing Leveon Bell with 11 total touchdowns out of the backfield. The fact of the matter is the Spartans have been dismissed because of all the talk that the Big 10 is "down" and the conference is well behind the likes of the SEC, Pac-12, ACC and Big 12. The truth is while the depth in the conference is down; the top end could compete with all of those other conferences. The three-headed monster of Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin is capable of hanging with the other powers. Currently Michigan State sits behind Northern Illinois, Fresno State, and two-loss teams in UCLA and South Carolina in the BCS standings. On a neutral field the Spartans would win games against all four of those teams - a few of them handily. Depending on how they perform the rest of the season, it may take until the bowl season for Michigan State to prove that their ranking has been a sham all along, and the Spartans should have been considered elite long ago. Teams dont need to score 60 points to be exciting or successful, and the Spartans are the number one team at proving that point. They have work left to be done, starting with the Cornhuskers this weekend, but keep an eye out for Michigan State as they take a run at the Big 10 Title and a berth in a BCS bowl game. Other notes from around the NCAA: -Michigan lost their first game at home under Brady Hoke, falling to Nebraska. Theyve combined for minus-69 rushing yards the last two games. -Tyler Gaffney ran the ball 45 times in Stanfords upset win over Oregon, good for the new Cardinal school record. -Auburn scored 55 points against Tennessee despite attempting only seven passes. Theyve won two straight games without attempting 10 passes in either contest. -92 points and 1,092 yards in the Texas A&M win over Mississippi State. In likely his last game at Kyle Field Johnny Manziel tossed five touchdowns and three interceptions. -Tyler Cameron completed five passes and threw three interceptions against FSU. Amazingly, he wasnt even the teams worst QB on the day – that title goes to Tanner Price who had three picks and only one completion. The six INTs by Florida State were a school record. -Pitt upset Notre Dame 28-21. In the fourth quarter Ray Vinopal had interceptions on back-to-back passes by Fighting Irish QB Tommy Rees. -The 38 points Alabama scored against LSU were the most since they put up 41 back in 1947. -UCF RB Storm Johnson had his third 100-yard rushing game of the year and the Knights are tops in the American Conference. The stat may not be that impressive, but the name Storm Johnson sure is. Kyle Schwarber Jersey . (January 11, 2014) – Once again Kevin Martin proved why he is the all-time TSN skins leader, winning $11,500 in prize money and a spot in the Travelers All-Star Curling Skins Game presented by Pintys final following a semifinal victory over Brad Jacobs earlier this evening at the Fenlands Banff Recreation Centre in Banff, Alta. Phil Cavarretta Jersey . -- The Seattle Seahawks and wide receiver Sidney Rice have agreed to terms on a deal.TORONTO -- Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks and Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers have been nominated as finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award. The award is presented annually to the most valuable player in the NHL, as voted by fellow members of the National Hockey League Players Association. The three centres are also the finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded by the NHL to the player considered most valuable to his team. Crosby scored 36 goals and led the league in assists (68) and points (104) to capture his second career Art Ross Trophy and lead the Penguins to their second consecutive division title. He registered points in 60 of the 80 games he played in (75 per cent), including 30 multi-point performances, and never went more than two consecutive games without registering a point. The 26-year-old Cole Harbour, N.S., native also reached the 100-point milestone for the fifth time hit 700 career points in his 497th game, the fastest among active players and sixth-fastest in NHL history. Crosby won the award in 2007 and 2013 and was a finalist in 2010. Jonathan Lucroy Jersey . Getzlaf scored a career-high 31 goals and ranked second in the league with 87 points to lead the Ducks to the top record in the Western Conference for the first time in franchise history. He posted a 14-game point streak from Nov. 15-Dec. 15 (six goals, 11 assists). Getzlaf, from Regina, also set a career high with seven game-winning goals and recorded a plus-28 defensive rating. Hes a first-time nominee and is looking to become the first Ducks player to receive the award. Giroux matched a career high with 28 goals and finished third in the NHL scoring race with 86 points to help the Flyers bounce back from a 3-9-0 start to the season. After being held pointless in his first five games and not scoring a goal until his 16th, Giroux totalled 28 goals and 51 assists in his final 67 games of the season. The 26-year-old Hearst, Ont., native also compiled a career-long, nine-game point streak Dec. 11-30, (six goals, 11 assists) and recorded his 100th NHL goal Dec. 19. Hes looking to become the first Flyer to receive the Award since Eric Lindros in 1995. ' ' '