SOCHI: What to watch on Thursday - NBC Sports

SOCHI: What to watch on Thursday
February 12, 2014, 11:30 pm

Here's a look at the compelling events, athletes and storylines of the Sochi Olympics on Thursday, Feb. 13.

Skeleton

Women's runs 1 & 2, 2:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The medals won't be awarded until Friday, but gold is expected to come down to American Noelle Pikus-Pace and Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold.

Pikus-Pace, a mother of two, finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics, retired and came back two seasons ago and was in the best form of her life this past season, which she said will be her last.

However, she is now dealing with a back injury and was 11th and 13th in two training runs Monday. Pikus-Pace passed on taking training runs Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yarnold, the World Cup season champion, was the fastest in four training runs. She's looking to make it back-to-back skeleton golds for the Brits after Amy Williams' title in 2010. Williams now works for the BBC.

The other U.S. slider is Katie Uhlaender, the 2012 world champion who has been slowed by concussion effects this season.

Freestyle Skiing

Men's ski slopestyle final, 4:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Two-time reigning Winter X Games champion Nick Goepper, the rare skier out of Indiana, is a medal favorite here. Goepper was among the first skiers to qualify for the Olympics in December and then enjoyed a media whirlwind that took him to the Golden Globe Awards and David Letterman.

The field includes several men who could win gold without a surprise, including Swede Jesper Tjader, Brit James Woods and Norwegian Andreas Haatveit. Also watch out for the other U.S. skiers -- Bobby Brown, Joss Christensen and Gus Kenworthy.

Men’s Hockey

U.S. vs. Slovakia, 7:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Russia vs. Slovenia, 7:30 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The men's hockey tournament begins in earnest Thursday. All four Group A nations will play at the same time. The U.S. gets a tougher test with Slovakia than Russia does with Slovenia.

It is also important to note that all teams advance from group play to the bracket round, though group results will dictate if nations go straight to quarterfinals or must play first-round elimination games.

The U.S. will start Jonathan Quick in goal against Slovakia. The Slovaks, who pushed Canada in the 2010 Olympic semifinals and ultimately finished fourth, are led by Zdeno Chara and Marian Hossa.

Russia gets going against a nation making its Olympic hockey debut in Slovenia.

Women's speed skating 1000m, 9 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe went one-two in three of four World Cup 1000m races so far this season, but it will be hard to replicate that at the Adler Arena.

Russia's Olga Fatkulina is the 2013 world champion on this ice and took second in the 500m on Tuesday. Richardson was eighth in the 500m; Bowe was 13th. However, Richardson and Bowe are better in the 1000m.

There's also Dutchwoman Ireen Wuest, the 2013 world silver medalist. Wuest won the 5000m on Sunday at Adler. China's Zhang Hong, too, could keep the U.S. from winning its first Olympic women's speed skating medal since 2002.

Biathlon

Men's 20km individual, 9 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen gets his second chance to become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time. Bjoerndalen, 40, matched retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie by winning the 10km sprint Saturday for his 12th career medal. Daehlie has more golds.

Bjoerndalen then finished an agonizing fourth in the 12.5km pursuit on Monday, his first fourth-place finish in 23 career Olympic races. He missed the podium by 1.7 seconds.

Bjoerndalen is not expected to be among the medal contenders in this longer distance, though. The gold is expected to come down to France's flamboyant Martin Fourcade and another Norwegian, Emil Hegle Svendsen.

Figure Skating

Men's short program, 10 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The cliched saying goes, you can't win the Olympic gold medal in the short program, but you can lose it.

The major players are Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu, who skates at 12:45 p.m. ET, and Canada's Patrick Chan, who goes two skaters later at 12:58. Chan, 23, is the three-time reigning world champion. Hanyu, 19, beat Chan at the Grand Prix Final in December.

Several other men are in the medal picture, including Russian four-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko (10:55 a.m.) and Spain's Javier Fernandez (12:51 p.m.).

U.S. skaters Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown go at 11:21 a.m. and 12:17 p.m., respectively.

Luge

Team relay, 11:15 a.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The U.S. looks to build off the momentum of Erin Hamlin's bronze medal in the final Olympic luge event. The team relay, in its Olympic debut, consists of a woman taking a run down the track and rising at the finish to tap a touch pad.

The tap will signal the start for a men's luger, who will take his run and rise to tap the same pad. Finally, a doubles team goes. The doubles' touch on the pad stops the clock.

The U.S. will send Hamlin, Chris Mazdzer (13th in singles) and Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman down the Sanki Sliding Center track.

Germany, which won men's and women's singles, is a heavy gold-medal favorite. Russia, Canada, Italy, Austria and even the U.S. could also win medals.

Men's hockey, Canada-Norway, 12 p.m. ET -- CLICK HERE TO WATCH EVENT LIVE

The men's hockey nightcap features the defending Olympic champion against a nation that has never made it past the Olympic quarterfinals.

Canada's roster includes 25 NHL players, most of them All-Stars. Norway's roster includes one NHL player, New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello.

The key in this game will be Canada's goalie, Carey Price, who is making his Olympic debut. 2010 Olympic gold-medal game winner Roberto Luongo is slated to start Canada's second game against Austria on Friday. So, we have a competition on our hands.