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What to Expect in the Men's Free Skate Tonight

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Of course, I have no idea what to expect tonight!  But here's a look at the top six contenders in the order that they will skate tonight.

Evan Lysacek (USA, Short Program Score:  90.30):  First of all, I feel like skating first in the final group is a bad starting order for Evan.  Even though the days of judges "leaving room" are long over, I'd still rather Evan were skating later. 

Evan Lysacek has been strong all season.  I don't think he'll have any type of disaster tonight.  If he makes an error, I don't think it will affect any of the rest of the program.  He's ready for this, and his free skate is very similar in spirit and style to the short program, so I'm sure the crowd will be into it and I'm sure he'll perform the hell out of it.  On paper, this is going to be difficult for Evan to do.  He has to not only skate clean, but make up for the one or two quads that Plushenko will most likely land cleanly.  He's going to have the edge in program components, though.  It should be a fierce competition.

Nobunari Oda (Japan, Short Program Score:  84.65):  Nobunari Oda was THE skater for the first half of this season.  And then the spark seemed to die a little bit, and he was clean but not special in his short program here.  His Chaplin free skate is absolutely adorable, and showcases Oda in a way that no other program has before.  If he can skate clean tonight, he may be able to stand out a bit more with this program than he did on Tuesday.   

Stephane Lambiel (Switzerland, Short Program Score:  84.63): Let me tell you a little story about a boy named Stephane Lambiel.  At the recent European championships, Lambiel sat in fifth place after the short program.   Just like he does here.  Then he skated his heart out to his great "La Traviata" free skate, and jumped all the way down to second place.  Lambiel did not need a particularly clean program, because he got very high program components scores.  Additionally, his spins should get +2 to +3 grades of execution.  If everyone else skates quite clean and Lambiel skates like he has been skating, he might have a problem.  But the judges have definitely been sure to keep him in medal contention, and Lambiel knows how to make the the most of that - he's the reigning Olympic silver medalist. 

Daisuke Takahashi (Japan, Short Program Score:  90.25):  Takahashi's free skate is as awesome as his short program.  Unfortunately, he has not really skated it clean too much this season.  His best showing internationally was at Skate Canada where he won the free skate, but did not get credit for a quad and did have some sloppy jumping that earned him negative grades of execution.  If he skates like that here, he won't make the podium.  Hopefully he can land his jumps tonight (I think he'll try the quad first).  His skating qualities will shine through no matter what, though. 

Johnny Weir (USA,Short Program Score:  82.10): Weir sits in sixth place heading into tonight's free skate, and he's about eight points out of medal contention.  Anything is possible, but it's going to be difficult for Weir to medal tonight.  He is historically a stronger short program skater than free skater, and he has not finished better than third in any free skate this season - and those competitions were against much less competition.  At his best free skate this season, the Grand Prix Final, he came in fourth with a 152.75 total score.  The leader got about seven more points in the free skate.  And I think it's evident that the judges aren't on Weir's side here. 

But honestly, none of that matters.  Weir does have the crowd on his side, and this is the last time in his life he'll be in front of a viewing audience like this.  Hopefully he'll use the emotion of the situation to put together a memorable free skate, at least to make up for the free skate from the last Olympics and close out the competition well.

Evgeny Plushenko (Russia, Short Program Score:  90.85):  Plushenko.  He skates last tonight, which is perfect for him.  He'll want all the eyes on him last, to see him skate clean to another gold medal.  I think he has to skate fairly clean, even if he's doing quads.  That's what we've learned from the judges here...Plushenko is not their preferred brand of skating.  The good news for Plushenko is that he rarely makes any major errors.  However, he does double a jump here and there and turn out of jumps once in awhile.  But a clean Plushenko may be an unbeatable one. 

NBC's coverage starts at 8pm.  This is not to be missed!