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COUNTDOWN TO OLYMPIC ROSTER SELECTION IS ON

eduhatschek@globeandmail.com

Under a schedule unveiled more than a month ago by the International Ice Hockey Federation, the first of the highly anticipated men's Olympic hockey rosters will be rolled out this week, with Belarus set to release its team Wednesday and Russia expected to follow on Christmas Day.

Canada won't unveil its lineup until Dec. 30, even if the brain trust, led by executive director Steve Yzerman, convened in Chicago yesterday to pare its list to a final few discussion points. The get-together marked the de facto conclusion of the endless scouting trips across North America and left just a few questions unanswered. Did either Patrice Bergeron (Boston) or Mike Fisher (Ottawa) do enough in the first two months of the season to bump Mike Richards (Philadelphia) off the team as the checking centre? Like Santa, Yzerman made his list, checked it more than twice.

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The NHL's already compressed 2009-10 schedule had to be tightened even further to accommodate the 15-day Olympic break. Since the league wanted to wrap up the regular season on the second weekend of April it has been a murderous December already for a handful of teams. No team will be happier to get the two-day Christmas break than the St. Louis Blues, who complete a stretch of six games in eight nights with visits to Edmonton today and Calgary on Wednesday. ... No NHL team is doing more with less than the Nashville Predators, who complete a three-game swing through Western Canada tomorrow with a date against the Vancouver Canucks. After sweeping Edmonton and Calgary back-to-back, the Preds are 15-3-2 in their past 20, have scored 23 goals in their past five games, and pending the outcome of Chicago's game with Detroit yesterday, had moved into a four-way tie atop the Western Conference standings with 47 points.

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By the numbers

40

Games without a goal by former Montreal Canadiens prospect Kyle Chipchura, who finally got on the board for his new employers, the Anaheim Ducks, by scoring his first in Saturday's win over the Phoenix Coyotes. Amid a couple of stays in the minors, Chipchura's last goal came almost two full calendar years ago, on Jan. 3, 2008.

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"The emotions we have should almost be a little bit angry. We're in the last five. We shouldn't be here."

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New York Rangers' goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, after helping his team steal a 2-1 wine over the Philadelphia flyers Saturday by making 16 third-period saves. The victory gave the Rangers back-to-back wins in regulation for the first time since October.

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About the Author

Eric was the winner of the Hockey Hall Of Fame's Elmer Ferguson award for "distinguished contributions to hockey writing" in 2001. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario's grad school of journalism, he began covering hockey in 1978 and after spending 20 years covering the NHL and the Calgary Flames, joined The Globe in 2000. More

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