Russia tries to kick-start medal run against Norway

 

The Sports Network

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Russia was not expected to be in this position, playing an elimination game prior to the quarterfinals of the Olympic hockey tournament, especially on home ice.

However, it is not unprecedented and may not be detrimental. Just ask Canada.

The Canadians were the sixth overall seed coming out of the preliminary round four years ago in Vancouver and went on to capture the gold medal.

Russia is the fifth seed after finishing second in Group A and will take on Group B cellar-dweller Norway. The Norwegians failed to earn a point in the round-robin portion of the tournament, falling to Canada, Finland and Austria.

The Russians, of course, played in the best game of the preliminary round -- a 3-2 shootout loss to the United States on Saturday, a decision which virtually sealed their place in the qualification round. A win in that game would likely have given the hosts the coveted bye into the quarterfinals.

Instead, an early elimination game will likely give captain Pavel Datsyuk and his teammates some focus.

The Russians, playing with an enormous amount of pressure as the host country, bounced back from the dramatic loss with a shootout win over Slovakia and they also struggled a bit in their tournament-opening 5-2 win over Slovenia.

Datsyuk scored twice in the loss to the U.S. and is the lone Russian player with more than one goal thus far. Superstar sniper Alex Ovechkin has a goal and an assist, while Evgeni Malkin has a goal and two helpers.

Semyon Varlamov has been in net for the two Russian victories, allowing two goals with a .951 save percentage. Sergei Bobrovsky was the hard-luck loser in the shootout against the Americans.

The lone NHL player on the Norwegian roster is Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers and he has yet to find the net in three games. Per-Age Skroder has two of the three Norwegian goals and Lars Haugen has surrendered nine goals with a .884 save percentage in his three games of work.

Finland awaits the winner in the quarterfinals.

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