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Our Olympic Hockey Preview Concludes With Team Sweden, Medal Picks

Last week, we broke down Groups A and B of the Olympic hockey tournament. Today, it's Group C, consisting of Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Belarus. Plus: Our medal picks.

Team Sweden, more so than any other team, faced some real roster drama in the weeks leading up to the Games: Forward Johan Franzen was originally left off the team's roster because of a knee injury, but he'd since recovered from surgery and returned to the Red Wings lineup. That drama's since worked itself out, though it not the way Sweden would have hoped: An injury to Franzen's Red Wings teammate Tomas Holmstrom opened up a roster spot, but also means the team will be without Holmstrom.

And speaking of injured Swedish hockey players, Peter Forsberg returns for his fourth (and presumably final) Olympics, though even he admits he doesn't know what to expect out of himself. Playing behind a roster rich with NHL players (Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, the Sedin twins), Henrik Lundqvist looks to defend Sweden's gold medal, and luckily for them, Lundqvist has been playing some of his best hockey of the year of late. This is especially important for the Rangers goalie because he's no stranger to the occasional two-week slump that could be something of a problem in a tournament that lasts only two weeks.

Team Finland has some talent on its roster — Saku Koivu, Jere Lehtinen, Miikka Kiprusoff, Olli Jokinen — but Rangers fans looking for someone to root against should take note that Jarkko Immonen, the NHL bust who was acquired in the Brian Leetch trade with Toronto, is on this team. Finland will benefit most, however, from an overall weak group. Germany doesn't have much going for it — it lost its most recognizable name when Olaf Kolzig retired last year — nor does Team Belarus.

MEDAL PICKS
Gold Medal: Russia
Silver Medal: Canada

The pressure to win on home ice proves too much for the Canadians, and the ridiculously talented Russian offense gets to Martin Brodeur in the gold-medal game.

Bronze Medal: Sweden
Fourth Place: United States

Sweden's talented enough to win gold, but the Russian and Canadian rosters are deeper. We actually quite like the Slovakian team, but Marian Gaborik is expected to miss the first two games of the tournament (and really, who knows after that), and Marian Hossa is banged up as well. As for the Americans, they're young and unfamiliar with each other's styles of play, but with such low expectations, a nothing-to-lose attitude is exactly what they need.

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Photo: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images