Sochi 2014: Top events to watch on Day 8

Robert Cianflone

Men's hockey heats up with the US and Canadians taking the ice for the first time on Thursday. There are also some intriguing speed skating events happening. Here's your guide to Day 8 of the Olympics.

SB Nation 2014 Winter Olympic Coverage

Hockey is the biggest event on Day 8 of the Winter Olympics, but there are other events to watch as well. In addition to the US and Canadian men's teams playing their first games, we have the final day of prelim action for women's hockey, a couple of medal events in speed skating, and the start of the men's individual rounds in figure skating.

Here are the top events to watch for on Thursday.

Men's ice hockey

The two biggest teams in the men's hockey field finally hit the ice on Thursday. The United States start their Olympic run against Slovakia at 7:30 a.m. ET, hoping to build off the silver medal finish in Vancouver. The team they lost to, Canada, will begin its title defense at 12 p.m., taking on Norway. Both teams are medal favorites once again, and we could be heading toward another thrilling showdown this year.

Women's ice hockey

Thursday is the final day of preliminary rounds for the women, with Japan facing Germany and Sweden taking on Russia. There's not much at stake in these games as Sweden and Russia are already through to the quarterfinal round, but this is another chance to catch the Japanese women, who have been loveable underdogs and played surprisingly well against stiff competition despite being 0-2.

Speed skating

Short track is the main headliner with the women's 500m event taking place. The final round starts at 7:05 a.m. ET. South Korea and China have the top competitors in this round, and the Chinese are looking to repeat their performance from Vancouver, when they cleaned up with four gold medals.

On the long track, The Netherlands hopes to add to its impressive medal haul the women's 1000m event. Ireen Wust took home the gold in the 500m run and is favored to make the podium again. American Brittany Bowe will try to end the Dutch run of success, but she'll have a tough field to contend with in South Korea's Lee Sang-Hwa. Team USA has had a disappointing run on the long track so far, failing to get a single medal.

Figure skating

There are no medals at stake on Thursday after a busy run of team and pairs events, but we do see the beginning of individual runs with the men's short program. The event starts at 10 a.m. Top names to watch include Patrick Chan, Evgeny Plyushchenko, Daisuke Takahashi and Javier Fernandez. The men's individual event finishes on Friday with the free skating program.

More on the Winter Olympics:

SB Nation's Winter Olympics medal tracker | Meet Team USA

Shaun White fails to capture gold | Americans stumble in curling

What you need to know about curling | Bobsled, luge and skeleton

Miracle Put on Ice: 1984 US hockey team never had a chance

Hockey: Men’s schedule | All 12 men’s rosters | USA roster analysis

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