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Evan Lysacek sets stage for showdown with Patrick Chan

Evan Lysacek of the United States reacts after he competes in the men's figure skating free skating on day 7 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at the Pacific Coliseum on February 18, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.

Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Olympic figure skating champion Evan Lysacek is back.

Olympic silver medalist Evgeny Plushenko is not - yet.

When the fields for the International Skating Union Grand Prix events this season were unveiled Monday, Lysacek's name was on the list to compete at Skate America in Ontario, Calif., this October, for the first time since he won gold at the Vancouver Games. And then he will go toe-to-toe with reigning world champion Patrick Chan at the Grand Prix event in Paris in November.

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However, Plushenko was left off the list because of recent surgery on his back and ISU officials concluded he would not be ready in time for the series. Plushenko had already been recovering from a knee operation in Germany in mid-June. He had planned to be back on the ice by now.

However, there is an opening for a third Russian man at Cup of Russia Nov. 25 to 27.

Lysacek hasn't competed since winning the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics, 1.31 points ahead of the 2006 Olympic champion Plushenko. Lysacek has been swamped with promotions and appearances since his victory.

Plushenko hasn't competed since Vancouver either, but for different reasons. He was banned by the ISU for skipping the world championships in Turin, Italy a month later because of injury, and then taking part in shows without permission.

He was only recently reinstated by the ISU.

Plushenko is eligible for the Grand Prix series, which starts with Skate America Oct. 21 to 23 and ends with Cup of Russia in Moscow. The Grand Prix Final is in Quebec City from Dec. 6 to 9.

Plushenko's aim is to compete at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when he will be 31 years old. Since the Vancouver Olympics, Chan has blasted all of Plushenko's records with strong performances, complete with quads.

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Lysacek won the Olympics without a quad, but he has been back doing run-throughs of his old Olympic programs - and training some quads - since January.

Also missing from the Grand Prix lineup this season is Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim of South Korea, who is helping Pyeongchang's bid for the 2018 Olympics. The decision will be announced July 6 in Durban, South Africa. The reigning women's world champion Miki Ando of Japan is also missing.

Chan will open his season at Skate Canada in Mississauga, Ont., Oct. 28 to 30 before meeting Lysacek in Paris Nov. 18 to 20.

Olympic ice dancing champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will also open their season at Skate Canada and compete in Paris as well.

The Grand Prix series comes with changes to its structure this season. For one, fewer athletes get a chance to compete. The ISU has dropped the number of competitors to 10 from 12 in the singles competitions at each event, and to eight from 10 in pairs and ice dancing events.

ISU vice-president David Dore said the changes are twofold: there has been a rebirth of interest in televising international figure skating, and the ISU wants to ensure that the quality of the events is worthy.

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"We've not been happy with our events in recent years," he said. "We're finding out that with dropouts [due to injury] some events weren't that strong. There was one ice dancing event in Russia that we got down to five ice dancing teams with all the dropouts."

Also, because athletes have fewer opportunities to make money, the ISU is allowing seeded athletes (top six) to do three Grand Prix events, rather than two, although the choice comes with a price. If athletes skate all three events, they'll get a bonus. If they sign up for three and don't skate them, they'll be penalized.

Dore said that only 29 per cent of the athletes wanted to take advantage of this plan. Canadian ice dancers Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje will. They'll compete at Skate Canada, the NHK Trophy in Japan, and Cup of Russia.

For the first time, the European Broadcasting Union has signed a deal with the ISU, Dore said, and will bring figure skating to 26 countries in Europe. Japanese networks also appear keen. And earlier this month, CBC signed a five-year deal to cover figure skating, including the Grand Prix Final, all of the Grand Prix events, junior and senior world championships and the Four Continents Championships.

"It's a very good sign," Dore said. "We went through some slow periods. But it's slowly coming back quite well. I'm quite encouraged."

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