3 Things to Watch in U.S.-Canada Olympic Semifinal

Since Russia was knocked out of the tournament, this turns into the rematch we've all be waiting for: the U.S. vs. Canada in the Olympic semifinals.

The U.S. wanted another shot at Canada after the heartbreaking overtime loss in the gold-medal game in 2010 in Vancouver, and they're going to get it. The winner of this game will be guaranteed a medal and will play either Finland or Sweden in the finals.

Here are three things to keep an eye on as you're avoiding your boss and watching the game at noon ET/9 a.m. PT on the NBC Sports Network or on nbcolympics.com.

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1. Will Canada Click?

There has been some concern in the Great White North about Team Canada. Sure, the team hasn't lost in the tourney, but Canadian fans expect blowouts and domination, especially against teams like Latvia and Norway.

That hasn't happened.

Team Canada's coaching staff has used the early rounds of the tournament to experiment with line combinations and systems, which has led to uneasiness and a bit of confusion among the players.

Is there real cause for concern, or is head coach Mike Babcock just playing possum? There's a good chance Babcock has been biding his time, waiting until when the games really count to show off the full capabilities of his all-star squad.

Think of Babcock as Darth Vader and the Death Star as Team Canada: You may fire when ready.

2. Can the U.S. Maintain Its Sochi Success

Team Canada's issues may be real, or they may be a game of rope-a-dope. But Team USA, on the other hand, has yet to truly struggle in the tournament.

Sure, they went to a shootout with Russia, but that was a fierce game on the Russians' home ice.

The team has looked solid from the get-go in Sochi, which is not only surprising, but could bring a false sense of security heading into this matchup with Canada.

Is the U.S. really this good? Or perhaps their opponents in the early rounds were really that bad? Intriguing questions to ponder, for sure.

And if the U.S. is really this good, how long will the good times last? The worst thing that can happen is the high-powered U.S. offense suddenly goes cold.

Luckily for coach Dan Bylsma, he's installed a good defensive system, as well, which the team can fall back on if Canada stymies the offensive attack. Oh, and he's got Jonathan Quick in goal, too, if all else fails. No offense to Carey Price and Roberto Luongo, but I'd put my money on Quick when the game is on the line.

3. Who Will Be the Hero?

Take your pick. The obvious hero on the Canadian side is Sidney Crosby, who scored the game-winner in the gold medal game four years ago. But Sid the Kid has yet to light the lamp in four games in Sochi. It's not very often that Crosby doesn't score in five straight games. He may be due.

On the U.S. side, T.J. Oshie has already played the role of hero in the shootout against Russia. And if you remember the Vancouver Games, Zach Parise tied the gold-medal game with a goal with just 24 seconds left in regulation. Captain America could have some more heroics in store in Sochi.

But if you're looking for a surprise pick for both teams, how about Matt Duchene for Team Canada? He's going to get a lot more playing time now that John Tavares is done for the Olympics (and the rest of the NHL season) with a knee injury. Duchene will be looking to take advantage of his new role, and to prove he can be counted on with regular ice time in a winner-takes-all game.

On the U.S. side, keep an eye on Blake Wheeler. He hasn't received a ton of ice time yet in Sochi, but the coaching staff loves the way he plays. Could he be the answer to Canada's Death Star approach?

In any case, this should be one heck of a game. So sit back, grab a sandwich (or a breakfast sandwich depending on where you live) and enjoy.

Bonus: Paul Martin Out

Word came out just hours before the game that Team USA defenseman Paul Martin will not play in the game.  Some reports have it being an illness, while others suggest that it could be a hand/wrist injury.

In any case, this is a huge blow to the U.S. defense. While not a well-known name on the squad, he is a steady, methodical defenseman who can log a ton of minutes and play in all situations.

Justin Falk will be added to the lineup to take his place. Keep an eye on how much ice time he gets and how Canada will look to exploit Martin's absence.

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