February 20, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Red Wings keeping close eye on Sochi

It's a safe bet the Red Wings' Jakub Kindl will be in front of a TV watching the Olympic men's hockey semifinals Friday. (David Guralnick / Detroit News)

Detroit — It doesn’t get much better for a hockey fan.

Friday’s Winter Olympics men’s hockey semifinals are two border wars pitting the United States against Canada and Sweden versus Finland.

The NHL players not in Sochi, Russia, will be glued to the television just like fans.

Conveniently, the Red Wings won’t skate Friday. But, oh yes, they’ll watch.

“Thank God we have the day off,” said Jakub Kindl, echoing the thought of many in the Red Wings locker room. “I’ll be interested and excited to see those two games.”

It’s difficult to tab a favorite among this talented foursome.

But of the four remaining teams, many agree the Americans have been the most impressive in the tournament.

“They have good balance to their team,” said Drew Miller, whose brother, goalie Ryan Miller (East Lansing/Michigan State), is on the USA squad. “They’ve played well, hard, and they’ve had success. In a single-game elimination with four good teams, it’s hard to say.

“I’m biased with the U.S.”

Said Daniel Cleary, noting Team USA’s strengths: “They won silver in Vancouver (in 2010, with Canada winning the gold), there’s a lot of returning players, good talent, good players, great goaltending. But what do I know?”

North American hockey fans shouldn’t underestimate the intensity and emotion of the Sweden-Finland game.

The dislike between the teams is almost college football-like.

Many Swedes regard Finland as Sweden’s “little brother.”

“That’s something Swedes try to tell them, but I don’t think they agree,” said Swede Joakim Andersson.

Said Finland native Teemu Pulkkinen, outnumbered in the Red Wings locker room by the numerous Swedes in the organization: “I don’t know about that.”

Kindl recuperating

Kindl sprained his knee Feb. 3 against Vancouver and missed the last two games before the Olympic break. He hopes to return Wednesday against Montreal but admits there is still some discomfort.

“It’s a little sore but it’s getting better,” said Kindl, who has skated the last three days. “Hopefully I’ll be ready for next week. But it’s still not 100 percent; it still hurts when I turn, pivot. I’m hoping to be ready.”

Said associate coach Tom Renney: “You watch how he’s doing with his pivots, misdirection, he’s doing fine.”

Coming home

Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc), Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco were expected to travel back to Detroit on the NHL charter from Sochi, Russia, on Thursday.

Zetterberg will see a specialist and determine whether surgery is needed, or can be postponed. Zetterberg, Sweden’s Olympic captain, withdrew from the Olympics last week.

Datsyuk will rejoin the Red Wings on Tuesday for practice, getting a few days off after team Russia was eliminated Wednesday in the Olympics.

Tatar and Jurco could begin working out with the Red Wings by Sunday.

Ice chips

Forwards Cory Emmerton, Riley Sheahan and Teemu Pulkkinen and defenseman Adam Almquist were sent back to Grand Rapids after filling out the Red Wings roster for the past two practices.

Sheahan will return to the Red Wings this weekend.

…The pace of Thursday’s practice was brisker than the day before at Joe Louis Arena.

“The big thing is you want to mimic a gamelike situation,” Renney said. “We certainly tried to do that. We tried to deliver a little more activity and push the pace a little more.”