NHL players will make up the bulk of the participants in next months Winter Olympics Ice Hockey race for gold. The Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks will have ten players going, but this could well derail their season.

The St Louis Blues & Detroit Red Wings are also sending ten each, with fans, team coaches and owners likely to be sweating on the fitness of their stars during the Olympic break.

When the NHL agreed last summer that they would be sending players from their league to the Olympics, mixed feelings sunk in.

Yes, the Sochi Olympics is all the much better with an array quality talent plying their trade in North America available. But if there are a raft of injuries and both Canada or USA don't triumph, the NHL and their fans could well be bitterly disappointed.

Sidney Crosby is such an integral part of the Pittsburgh side, and an injury to him would certainly devastate the Penguins fans, especially if the injury was suffered whilst trying to spur Canada on to victory.

However, there is another way to look at it though. What about if your players do bring the gold back? If that happens to several team-mates in Sochi, the good feeling will only rub off on their NHL team-mates, and enhance their side's performance for the rest of the season.

Take the Blackhawks for instance. The reigning Stanley Cup Champions were leading the Central Division in the Western Conference until they suffered back to back defeats.

Three of their stars, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, will all be trying to retain the Olympic title for Team Canada. If they succeed, it certainly won't be a draining experience, it will be an experience that they could transfer into their play with Chicago.

Alternatively, a poor effort in Sochi could be detrimental to the Blackhawks season also.

Whatever happens, it's going to be an enthralling tournament in Sochi that will go down to the wire, and there are plenty of national teams for avid NHL fans to keep an eye on in February.

Take a look at the list we compiled of the teams with five or more players travelling to Sochi.

Chicago Blackhawks (10), Detroit Red Wings (10), St Louis Blues (10)

Montreal Canadiens (8)

Anaheim Ducks (7), NY Rangers (7), Pittsburgh Penguins (7)

LA Kings (6), Phoenix Coyotes (6), Tampa Bay Lightning (6), Vancouver Canucks (6)

Boston Bruins (5), Columbus Blue Jackets (5), Minnesota Wild (5), Philadelphia (5)

Topics:
NHL Playoffs
NHL
Chicago Blackhawks
Pittsburgh Penguins