Jeremy Abbott of the United States attends a Team USA news conference. (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

SOCHI, Russia — After stumbling badly at the 2010 Vancouver Games and again in last week’s inaugural team competition in Sochi, 28-year-old Jeremy Abbott wants desperately to end his figure-skating career with an Olympic performance that truly reflects his ability.

And 19-year-old Jason Brown, just one season removed from the junior ranks, wants to make a powerful statement about his potential for an individual Olympic medal at the 2018 Games.

Both Americans get their chance Thursday at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace, where the men’s short program will be contested at 7 p.m. local time.

Thirty skaters will compete; the top 24 advance to Friday’s free skate, which will decide the medalists.

Neither American is expected to reach the podium. Abbott has been wildly inconsistent—brilliant in winning his fourth U.S. championship in Boston last month but error-plagued last week, falling twice during his short program in the team event. And Brown hasn’t yet mastered the quadruple jump that’s widely regarded as a minimum technical feat for an Olympic men’s medalist, although Evan Lysacek became the 2010 Olympic champion without it.

The battle for the podium the next two nights should to be brilliant, with the following skaters worth keeping a special eye on:

Patrick Chan of Canada: The reigning world champion, Chan blends technical precision with natural artistry and has posted the season’s best marks for total score (295.27 points).

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan: Winner of the Grand Prix final in December, Hanyu could become the youngest Olympic men’s champion, at 19, in 66 years.

Javier Fernandez of Spain: The two-time European champion is among the more artful and prolific practitioners of the quadruple jump.

And, of course, Evgeni Plushenko of Russia: Competing in his fourth Olympics, the skating icon and unparalleled showman won gold in 2006 and silver in 2002 and 2010. At 31, he’s competing with an ailing back but is sure to have the crowd in his hands.

Plushenko will compete seventh, at 7:55 p.m. That’s not ideal, given that judges typically save room to account for better performances that might follow.

Abbott competes 11th (8:21 p.m.); Brown, 16th (9:17 p.m.). And Hanyu, Fernandez and Chan compete in succession (19th, 20th and 21st), starting at 9:45 p.m.

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Photos from Day 6 | Daily TV schedule | U.S. medal winners