Q: Can NHL players not playing in the Olympics work out with their teams in North America?
A: Yes, but not until Feb. 19.
Q: What do most of the non-Olympians do during the break?
A: Judging by Twitter and other reports, a lot of NHL players take advantage of the break to head somewhere warm and sandy. Of course, those players with children will be enjoying an unusual extended spell of Daddy time at home.
Q: Which player has played in the most Olympics?
A: This is Teemu Selanne's sixth Olympic tournament. He first played in the 1992 Olympics and is the all-time leading scorer in the men's Olympic tournament with 37 points in 31 games.
Q: When did the Russians last win gold at the Olympics?
A: The Unified Team won the gold medal in 1992 after the breakup of the Soviet Union. That team was a combination of players from Russia and other former Soviet states. In the seven Olympic tournaments before 1992, the Soviet Union won six gold medals and a silver. That silver of course came in 1980, when they were upset in the medal round-robin competition by the U.S. "Miracle on Ice" team. (The gold medal in that tournament was awarded to the team with the most points in the final-round standings; there was no gold-medal game as there is today.)
Q: What is the format? How do teams advance to the medal round?
A: There are three groups of four teams, and each team plays all the teams in its grouping during the preliminary round. A regulation win is worth three points, overtime/shootout wins worth two points, overtime/shootout losses worth one point. The three group leaders in points and the team with the next best point total through the three preliminary games receive a bye to the quarterfinals. The remaining eight teams play qualification games, with 5 versus 12, 6 versus 11, 7 versus 10 and 8 versus 9 based on point totals. The four winners of those games play the four teams with the byes in the quarterfinals; those four winners play in the semifinals and the two winners there meet in the gold-medal game on the final day of the Olympics, with the losers in the semifinal games meeting for the bronze medal.
Q: What are the rules for overtime?
A: During the preliminary round, teams will play five minutes of four-on-four hockey followed by a shootout. In the initial three rounds of the shootout, teams must select three different players, but if the game is still tied through the first three shootout attempts, a coach can choose to use the same player, unlike the NHL, where new shooters must be used on each attempt. For elimination games, including the quarterfinals, semifinals and bronze-medal stage, teams will play 10 minutes of sudden-death overtime before the shootout stage. If the gold-medal game is tied at the end of regulation, the two teams will play 20 minutes of sudden-death overtime before moving to a shootout. All overtime competition is four-on-four.
Q: Who is favored and why?
A: Tough to pick one team: Host Russia, because of its high-end offensive talent; Canada, because of its incredible depth up front and along the blue line; the U.S., with its goaltending and balanced, dangerous forward group; and the Swedes, with top goaltending and an abundance of high skill at both forward and defense, are all good candidates. The fact neither Canada nor the U.S. has won a medal of any shade in the two previous tournaments held outside North America -- in 1998 in Nagano and in 2006 in Turin -- also prevents identifying a clear favorite.