Photo credit: Harry How/Getty Images

Just hours after the United States, Russia and Slovenia kick off their respective preliminary schedules, it will be the defending gold-medallists beginning their tournament. At 9am PST (12pm EST), Canada will take on Norway.

The start of this contest will mean that the Los Angeles Kings have seen all six of their Olympic player representatives see action in Sochi.

Team Canada has high expectations of Drew Doughty, who is participating in his second Olympiad after winning gold in 2010 in Vancouver. Outside of Jay Bouwmeester, Doughty is one of the elder statesmen on Canada’s blueline. With that said, however, it appears as if Doughty will start Thursday’s game on the third defensive pairing with NHL rival, San Jose Sharks D-man Marc-Eduoard Vlasic.

As for Jeff Carter, while this is his first Olympics, the sniper will be thrown right into the fire as he will begin the tournament on Canada’s top line with the Pittsburgh duo of Chris Kunitz and some guy named Sidney Crosby. Perhaps you’ve heard of him?

In goal, Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock has elected to go with Montreal’s Carey Price. With that said, Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo is slated to start on Friday against Austria.

On paper, this contest couldn’t look like any more of a mismatch. Putting Canada’s “gold or bust” philosophy up against a Norweigan squad who are most likely just thrilled be there doesn’t seem fair. Of course, if I said once, I said it a million times: nothing is won on paper.

Team Canada begins defense of their gold medal early Thursday. The best of luck to them but in particular, to the two Kings: Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty.

Enjoy the game!