With Norway making their return for the first time since 1994. Norway is looking to send a squad that has been improving, but are expected to be the long shots at this tournament. With just one NHL player on the roster, they may be outmatched. But they have a strong group that is reperstentred all over Euorpe, especially the Swedish Elite League where an impressive 10 players that play in Sweden.
Also a strong group with several players from Germany and they own league in Norway called the GET-Ligaen which has been one of the big improvers in Europe in recent years. But still it still has a long way to go compared to players in places like Sweden and Russia. An impressive 6 players will get a chance to showcase their league and for players like Lars Erik Spets and Ruben Smith, perhaps have a strong showing and get signed by a stronger team in either Europe or North America.
The only NHL player for Norway is Ole-Kristian Tollefsen who's been at best a marginal NHL player who's played in just 18 games and hasen't played more then 13 minutes in any single game this season and only has 2 points (Both assists this season). With the lack of NHL players on the roster, he will need to play a factor on defense as he will have to play much tougher competition against the Americans, the Canadians and the Swiss who are looking to build on an impressive 2006 Olympic Tournament.
What Norways lacks in Superstars, they make up for in fimilarity as a majority of these players have played well together during last year's World Championship as they were able to fight off relegation after a winless prelim round with heavy losses against Finland and the Czech Republic, before winning in OT to avoid the relegation round. Then in the Qualfiying round, they were considered a tough match as the team picked up it's play with OT Loses to Slovakia and Belarus. So this team has some experience when in 2008, Norway were able to advance to the Quarterfinals before losing to Canada 8-2.
Among the German based players is Tore Vikingstad who's been a regular the last couple of years in the German Scoring Race. With 55 points (13G 42A) is 3rd in the League Scoring race in Germany this season and is expected to be one of the most imporant set up men to help get Norway have any hopes of pulling off an upset. He's also been a regular in the top 10 in scoring the last couple of seasons.
From the KHL, Patrick Thorsen who had spent some time in the NHL has moved to Russia and is playing very well which included a trip to the KHL All Star Game a few weeks ago and is becoming a force for the Russian Power House Salavat Yulayev Ufa who was the top team during the regular season, but lost in a stunning upset to the 16th seed Avangard Omsk in the playoffs last season.
In all, if Norway is going to be a threat the team will have to do everything as a unit on all parts of the ice. The speed of the team with it's fast style and crisp passing should help them out on the Power Play. Otherwise, it could be a long tournament for Norway, they best shot of an upset could come in the Switzerland game as both Canada and the U.S.A. are expected to beat them pretty easily.
Here's the Norway Group Stage Schedule
2/16: VS. Canada 6:30 PM
2/18: VS. U.S.A. 2:00 PM
2/20: VS. Switzerland 2:00 PM
Here's the Player Profile's of the North American Based Players.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (DET): www.nhl.com/ice/player.htm?id=8470170&view=stats
33: Pal Grotnes, 6'2" 189, 3/7/1977, Lorenskog NOR, Stjernen Frederikstad (GET-Ligaen, NOR)
34: Andre Lysenstoen, 6'4" 246, 10/27/1988, Oslo NOR, Heki Heinola (FIN2, FIN)
30: Ruben Smith, 5'11" 165, 4/15/1987, Stavanger, NOR, Storhamar Dragons (GET-Ligaen, NOR)
47: Alexander Bonsaksen, 5'11" 182, 1/24/1987, Oslo NOR, Modo Ornskoldsviks (SEL, SWE)
6: Jonos Holos, 5'10" 194, 8/27/1987, Sarpsborg NOR, Farjestad Karlstad (SEL, SWE)
7: Tommy Jakobsen, 5'8" 187, 12/10/1970, Oslo NOR, IK Lorenskog (GET-Ligaen, NOR)
5: Juha Kaunismaki, 6'1" 194, 5/6/1979, Helsinki FIN, Stavanger Oilers (GET-Ligaen, NOR)
36: Lars Erik Lund, 6'2" 209, 7/25/1974, Oslo NOR, Valerenga Oslo (GET-Ligaen, NOR)
55: Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, 6'2" 211, 3/29,1984, Oslo NOR, Detroit Red Wings (NHL)
23: Mats Trygg, 5'10" 180, 6/1/1976, Oslo NOR, Kolner Haie (DEL, GER)
48: Mats Zuccarello Assen, 6'0" 200, 9/1/1987, Oslo NOR, Modo Ornskoldsvik (SEL, SWE)
21: Morten Ask, 5'6: 160, 5/14/1980, Oslo NOR, Nurnberg Ice Tigers (DEL, GER)
20: Anders Bastiansen, 6'2" 213. 10/31/1980, Oslo NOR, Farjestad Karlstad (SEL, SWE)
26: Kristian Forsberg, 6'0" 189, 5/5/1986, Oslo NOR, Modo Ornskoldsvik (SEL, SWE)
8: Mads Hansen, 6'0" 198, 9/16/1978, Oslo NOR, Brynas Gavle (SEL, SWE)
9: Marius Holtet, 6'0" 178, 8/31/1984, Oslo NOR, Farjestad Karlstad (SEL, SWE)
46: Mathis Olimb, 5'10" 174, 2/1/1986, Hamar NOR, Frolunda Gothenberg (SEL, SWE)
22: Martin Roymark, 6'0" 189, 11/10/1986, Oslo NOR, Frolunda Gothenberg (SEL, SWE)
19: Per-Age Skroder, 5'10" 202, 8/4/1978, Sarpsborg NOR, Modo Ornskoldsvik (SEL, SWE)
10: Lars Erik Sptes, 4/2/1985, 4/2/1985, Trondheim NOR, Valerenga Oslo (GET-Ligaen, NOR)
41: Patrick Thorsen, 5'10" 187, 11/7/1983, Oslo NOR, Salavat Yulayev Ufa (KHL, RUS)
29: Tore Vikingstad, 6'3" 205, 10/8/1975, Trondheim NOR, Hannover Scorpions (DEL, GER)
35: Martin Laumann Yvlen, 6'2" 202, 12/22/1988, Oslo NOR, HC Linkopings (SEL, SWE)
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