SOCHI SCENE: Russia's potential rival

AP - Sports
SOCHI SCENE: Russia's potential rival

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Austria goaltender Bernhard Starkbaum reaches back as the puck shot by Canada forward Jeff Carter, flies into the net for a goal in the second period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Russian hockey fans are showing they love an underdog. Or maybe they'd just like a tougher path for Canada, their hometown team's biggest threat.

Chants of ''Ro-ssi-ya, Ro-ssi-ya'' popped up early in Canada's preliminary round game against Austria on Friday night, with little on the line besides position in the elimination rounds. The fans coupled their patriotic cheers with roars every time Austria made a good play.

Why? Well, Canada is stacked. Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have the Canadians a 6-5 favorite to win the Sochi Games tournament, with Russia well behind as the next favorite at 5-2.

The 12-team tournament is formatted so the winners of three groups and a wild card get automatic berths in the quarterfinals, while the other eight teams have to duke it out for the last four spots.

Canada scored twice in the first period against Austria, then quickly added two more in less than five minutes in the second period, spending most of its time in the attack zone.

So just how good is Canada?

Its captain, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is the NHL's reigning winner of the Ted Lindsay Award, picked by players themselves as the league's most outstanding player. The rest of Canada's on-paper first line, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber, Chris Kunit and Martin St-Louis, combine with Crosby for seven NHL First All-Star Team selections.

- By Oskar Garcia - Twitter


Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter:

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