14RC-SD-CB-2173 595This weekend, eight dance teams will take the ice in Osaka, Japan, at NHK Trophy. This is the final event in the Grand Prix Series, and two spots to the Final are still up for grabs.

One of those spots will likely go to Kaitlyn Weaver & Andrew Poje, the gold medal favorites in Osaka. With a gold medal at Skate Canada already under their belts, the Canadians only need a medal of any color to guarantee their trip to Barcelona. While they skated well to win Skate Canada, their free dance was not met with the rave reviews that last year’s program enjoyed. It will be interesting to see if their “Four Seasons” program sparkles more this weekend.

The British team of Penny Comes & Nicholas Buckland has a great chance to qualify for their first Grand Prix Final. They need to finish at least second, which is within their reach in this field. They won a bronze medal in a close decision at Rostelecom Cup two weeks ago. If they skate with a little more finesse and polish this week, their clever, crowd-pleasing programs could get them into the 160-point range.

Two Russian teams with fourth-place finishes earlier in the Series still have outside shots at the Final, too, but they would need place at least second, ahead of Coomes & Buckland, and put up a huge score to win the tiebreaker in the standings. The new pairing of Victoria Sinitsina & Ruslan Zhiganshin finished over 10 points behind the Brits at Rostelecom Cup, and it seems unlikely that they could leapfrog them. Ksenia Monko & Kirill Khaliavin’s score at Skate Canada was even further back (almost 15 points), but they have had more time to work on their dances. So while a trip to Barcelona is unlikely, one of the Russian teams could win their first Grand Prix medal.

Germans Nelli Zhiganshina & Alexander Gazsi could also challenge for the bronze medal. They finished fifth at Skate Canada, but were less than three points behind Monko & Khaliavin. Their character-driven programs have always been popular with audiences, but the quirky themes do not seem to disguise their technical weaknesses as much as they used to.

Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker will represent Team USA at NHK Trophy. Last year’s world junior champions made their senior Grand Prix debut two weeks ago in Russia, where they finished sixth. The youngsters have an opportunity to improve technically on their short dance. If they can start the event better, their gentle, lyrical free dance will have even more of an impact.

Two teams from Japan fill out the roster. Cathy Reed & Chris Reed, often plagued by injuries during the past few years, had to withdraw from Skate America last month, so they will make their season début in Osaka. They were sixth at NHK last year and fifth in 2012.

Emi Hirai & Marien de la Asuncion will make their Grand Prix debut this week. They train in de la Asuncion’s hometown of Lyon, France, and have been skating together since 2011. They finished 11th at the Four Continents Championships in 2013 and 2014.

The short dance is scheduled for Saturday afternoon, and the free dance will close the competition on Sunday afternoon.