Team Russia became the first of the big nations to practice in Sochi, in lead-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics hockey tournament. The host nation Russians will look to redeem themselves after failing to medal in two straight Olympic hockey tournaments with NHL players.
Today’s practice was open to media, thus, the world caught its first glimpse of the host nation’s line combinations. Russia’s top two forward lines are particularly deadly.
Evgeni Malkin centres a premiere scoring line that features ex-Capitals teammates Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin on the wings. Size, speed, skill: Russia’s big line will be very difficult to contain over the next two weeks in Sochi. When motivated and performing at top form, Malkin and Ovechkin have been known to dominate the NHL. Both are former Hart trophy winners and NHL scoring leaders. Malkin has even proven his worth in high-pressure situations. The Penguins star won the Conn Smythe trophy was playoff MVP back in 2009 when the Pens won the Cup. Malkin was unstoppable in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, scoring 36 points in 24 games – ten more points than the 2013 post-season playoff scoring leader. Malkin is the only Russian to win the Conn Smythe.
Russia’s second line is a concoction of KHL stars: Centre Alex Svitov, left-winger Ilya Kovalchuk, and right-winger Alex Radulov. Captain Pavel Datsyuk did not practice due to injury. At this time it is not known whether Datsyuk will be healthy enough to compete in the games that lie ahead for the hosts, but it is widely speculated that shall he suit up he will centre Kovalchuk and Radulov on what is a very lethal offensive trio should Datsyuk be healthy enough to join them. It’s an “IF”, at this point.
Pavel Datsyuk (lower-body injury) didn't practice with Russia, though he did came out to take team picture.
— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) February 10, 2014
Russia’s lines from practice number one:
RUS lines: Ovechkin-Malkin-Semin, Tarasenko-Anisimov-Kulemin, Radulov-Svitov-Kovalchuk, Popov-Tereschenko-Tikhonov. Datsyuk didn't practice.
— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) February 10, 2014
The Russian roster has a lot to prove after losing in a blowout to Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The hosts will try to return the favour this time around should they face Canada at any point in the tournament. Although, it’s worth noting that Canada’s 2010 rout of the Russians was in a way payback for Russia’s quarter-final shutout victory over Team Canada at the 2006 Olympics in Turin. This rivalry is never ending.