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NHL players to participate in 2014 Sochi Olympics

NHLAnaheim DucksLos Angeles KingsWestern Conference (NHL)2014 Winter OlympicsHonda Center

In an agreement followed quickly by the release of the NHL regular-season schedule, the league announced Friday its players will participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The Olympic men's hockey tournament — won in 2010 by Canada on a goal by Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby against the United States — will be held Feb. 12-23, the fifth consecutive Games in which NHL players will be participating.

The last NHL games before the Olympics will be held Feb. 8, and league play will resume Feb. 26.

"The NHL features the most international player population in professional sports, and our outstanding athletes take tremendous pride in representing their homelands on the global stage," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a prepared statement.

"The decision to participate … was in many ways a difficult one, but one that we know will be well received by our players and, most importantly, by the vast majority of our fans and sports fans everywhere."

The NHL said it expects more than 120 of its players to participate for the 12 participating federation teams.

The countries are grouped as follows — Group A: U.S., Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia; Group B: Canada, Austria, Finland, Norway; Group C: Czech Republic, Latvia, Switzerland, Sweden.

Canada will attempt to become the first country since the Soviet Union in 1988 to repeat as Olympic champion. Schedules will be released at a later date.

"Having the opportunity to wear their nation's sweater in Sochi is something the players look forward to," Don Fehr, the NHL players' union executive director, said in a joint statement with the league.

The Kings will start their 82-game regular season Oct. 3 at Minnesota and return to Staples Center for their home opener Oct. 7 against the New York Rangers.

The Kings' much-anticipated outdoor game at Dodger Stadium against the Ducks will be held at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 25.

The Ducks start their season with 11 of their first 16 games on the road, including a three-game trip that starts at Colorado on Oct. 2 to begin the season. The Ducks return to Honda Center on Oct. 10 for their home opener against the Rangers.

The NHL also announced a four-division realignment, moving Detroit from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference, which will now be separated into Atlantic and Metropolitan divisions.

The Kings and Ducks are joined by Phoenix, San Jose, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in the Western Conference's Pacific Division.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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NHLAnaheim DucksLos Angeles KingsWestern Conference (NHL)2014 Winter OlympicsHonda Center
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