Will the second-to-the-last day of the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, be full of surprises or more of the same?
U.S. men's hockey gets one last shot -- at bronze
The U.S. men's hockey team had been the class of the Olympics -- piling on goal after goal, sinking Russia in dramatic fashion, and crushing the Czech Republic by a 5-2 score.
Then came Canada. And the Americans' gold medal hopes came crashing down.
Less than 24 hours after that 1-0 semifinal loss, the U.S. team's reward Saturday might be a bronze medal -- if it can win one more time.
But it won't be easy, and not just because of Thursday's defeat.
Their competition in the so-called consolation game -- the winner gets the bronze, the loser goes home empty -- is Finland. Like the Americans. its team is packed with NHL talent like Anaheim's Teemu Selanne, Boston's Tuukka Rask and Dallas' Kari Lehtonen. The Finns' two losses came to the two finalists, Sweden and Canada, and they had the distinction of knocking Russia out of contention.
The American squad has proven it's capable of anything: They can score, they can defend, and they can rise to the occasion. Still, even if they win Saturday, some might consider it a disappointment coming four years after coming oh-so-close to gold in Vancouver.
Alpine skiing's last hurrah
Russia has never been known for its alpine skiing. The same goes for the area around Sochi, defined more by its proximity to the Black Sea than the presence of pristine slopes. Efforts to boost the area's economy by building resorts nearby are trying to change that.
What amounts for Russia's skiing reputation are tied to the 2014 Winter Games, with mixed results. On the negative side, there have been complaints about dangerous and mushy courses, with fog and rain at times putting a damper on races. There have also been plenty of thrills and impressive performances, too, like Slovenian Tina Maze's pair of gold medals and 18-year-old American Mikaela Shiffrin becoming the youngest winner, of any gender, in the sport after her slalom performance.
On the men's side, there's been plenty of good action but no dominance so far. Unlike speed skating -- in which the Netherlands annihilated the competition, the victors in men's alpine skiing four disciplines so far have hailed from four countries.
On Saturday, skiing in Sochi gets its last hurrah with the men's slalom.
Austria's Marcel Hirscher, as the reigning world champion, is probably the closest thing to the favorite. Germany's Felix Neureuther, Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen and France's Alexis Pinturault also can't be counted out, having done well in such events in the recent past.
And, in an Olympics full of surprises, maybe the winner isn't someone you'd expect. Perhaps it'll be someone like Ted Ligety, the American who won gold in the giant slalom but is forecast as an also-ran in this event. Or you can take your chance on Italy's Giuliano Razzoli. He has been among the bottom-feeders in men's slalom events of late, but he's also the reigning Olympic champ.
Sledding into history
Will he or won't he? Win the four-man bobsled, that is.
That's the question for Steven Holcomb, who is looking to pilot the four-man U.S. bobsled team to its second consecutive Olympic gold medal.
Holcomb sprained his left calf earlier in the Winter Games when he piloted the U.S. two-man team to its first Olympic medal in years, well, decades.
Now, he's scheduled Saturday to drive the No. 1 U.S. team in the first two of four runs.
But questions have been raised about whether his calf will hold up during the furious push at the start of the run.
Holcomb is piloting the Night Train 2, an updated version of the bobsled that he and his team rode to gold in Vancouver in 2010. The original Night Train will serve as the No. 2 U.S. team sled.
Who else to watch:
The Russian team piloted by Alexander Zubkov is looking for Olympic gold in the four-man event to match the one he got after winning the two-man bobsled on his home turf.