Any talk of the U.S. hockey team winning a medal in the Olympics usually begins with its pool assignment.
Sweden and Finland, two teams expected to finish strongly, are in the U.S. pool. Team USA has beaten Finland and today faces its toughest test to date against Sweden, a potential gold-medal winner, at 2 p.m. (Ch. 13).
The Americans, the last undefeated team, no longer need an upset to advance to the medal round. If they win or tie today, they will be the top-seeded team from their group and play France. If the Americans lose, they will play Czechoslovakia.
A gold medal still seems as unlikely in this Olympics as it was in 1980. But Team USA's decision to participate in a French tournament before the Olympics has helped. Becoming acclimated to the higher altitude has helped as much as the competition.
The Swedes may have more talent than the Unified Team, the gold-medal favorite coming into the Olympics. A number of former NHL players will skate for Sweden, including Bengt Gustafsson, who played for the Washington Capitals.
Presidents Day: There will be no coverage by TNT cable network today. With the long holiday weekend (Presidents Day, for those of you who don't have it off), CBS will telecast four shows today _ 7-9 a.m., 1-6 and 8-11 p.m. and 11:30-midnight.
_ JOHN HARRIS