By all accounts it's going to be a beautiful day in Nashville, with weather that will make us think spring is well underway. So get out there and enjoy it...
But only for a while - because today, the Olympic mens hockey tournament features three incredible matchups that represent exactly why the NHL takes a break and sends the best players in the world to participate in the Games.
At stake are the top 4 qualifying positions in the tournament. After today, all 12 teams will be ranked based on the round-robin results, setting up a single-elimination bracket that looks much like the Sweet Sixteen in college basketball. The top four teams, however, get a bye into the quarter-finals, and in a tournament like this, that's a significant step towards a medal. You can check the standings right here, and I keep the Nashville Predators' Olympic stats updated constantly as well.
Russia vs. Czech Republic (2:00 p.m. Central, NBC): The Great Mullet, Jaromir Jagr, has a chance to lead Martin Erat and the Czechs to an undefeated record in Group B, and more favorable matchups in the elimination rounds. The Russians are looking to bounce back from an upset loss to Slovakia Friday night.
Canada vs. USA (6:40 p.m., MSNBC starts coverage early at 6:00): Their shootout win over Switzerland put seeds of doubt into the minds of many about the Canadian team, but Nashville fans will get to see plenty of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, who lead their respective teams in ice time.
Sweden vs. Finland (11:00 p.m., MSNBC): Make no mistake, this is an intense Nordic rivalry, with the lead in Group C on the line. Both teams are undefeated to this point, and Finland has given up just one goal across two games. Perhaps Patric Hornqvist is the guy to light them up?
Follow after the jump for a few notes about last night's games, and all of your pre-game USA vs. Canada reading...
Switzerland 5, Norway 4: The Swiss took an OT thriller as Norway almost pulled off the upset.
Slovakia 6, Latvia 0: The Slovaks put pressure on Russia with their win last night; the Russians must win if they want to climb past Slovakia into Group B's second place.
Belarus 5, Germany 3: The Germans dropped to 0-3, although Marcel Goc had a strong game (1 G, 1 A).
USA vs. Canada stories
Nash, Crosby Remain Together (Puck-Rakers Blog)
Despite grumblings about who will play alongside Sidney Crosby, it looks like Columbus winger Rick Nash will stick with him, but Jarome Iginla will be swapped out for Mike Richards.
U.S. Olympic hockey player Bobby Ryan reveals a dark family secret - New Jersey Real-Time News
I can't imagine NBC giving the touching background-story treatment to this; it is simply one of the most unusual things I've ever ready about any professional athlete, period. Give it a look.
U.S. players learned team lesson from military - NHL.com
Team USA GM Brian Burke has worked with Operation Homefront, and had a wounded soldier "adopt" each member of the hockey team.
Predators brace for USA-Canada duel - The Tennessean
It's only fitting that Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, who have developed alongside each other with the Predators, should square off as Olympic rivals.
Burke: Why pressure’s on Canada, why ‘playing at noon sucks’ - Puck Daddy
The Truculent One speaks!
Another Miracle on Ice wallpaper, because I was bored with photoshop. Link for full 1600x900... - Fear The Fin
Decorate your PC appropriately, with a celebration of the greatest sporting moment in American history.
Red Light District: How the U.S. can beat Canada
Making the Canucks cry tears of maple syrup in just 3 easy steps.
2010 Olympic Hockey Jerseys : Mother Pucker Hockey
Ranking the aesthetic appeal of the 12 teams' jerseys.
And lastly, of course, we leave you with a little extra motivation for this evening's game, young Josh Sacco invoking the spirit of Herb Brooks doing the Miracle speech...