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Sochi hockey notebook: Orpik paired with Martin for U.S.

| Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 10:39 a.m.
REUTERS
Team USA defenseman Paul Martin of the Penguins waits at center ice during the team's first Olympics practice this week in Sochi, Russia.

SOCHI, Russia — Brooks Orpik moved up to the United States' third defensive pairing along with Paul Martin, his regular partner in Pittsburgh, on Tuesday in the Americans' second practice.

Orpik and Martin have had injury-riddled, inconsistent seasons, so neither was seen as an automatic for inclusion.

In the first practice, Orpik was with the fourth pairing, which is where the healthy scratches go.

This time, Cam Fowler and Justin Faulk were the odd defensemen out.

“We have Brooks and Paul together five-on-five and on penalty-killing,” said Team USA coach Dan Bylsma, their coach with the Penguins. “There's a lot to be said for familiarity in a short tournament where you don't have a lot of preparation.”

The U.S. opens Thursday against Slovakia.

Kunitz power

Chris Kunitz is not only on Canada's top line but also on the top power-play unit, as coach Mike Babcock unveiled at practice. Kunitz was in front of the net — a familiar role — with Sidney Crosby and John Tavares up front, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith on the points.

“I'm happy to play any role they need from me,” Kunitz said.

A unified team

The Russian team's pre-Games news conference was by far the best attended of any sport, at the dais — at which the entire team sat as a show of unity — and in the large hall packed with hundreds of reporters.

Evgeni Malkin's only comment came through a translation, and it didn't appear to quite make it: “We know that this year the American team is very strong, but we will step on ice with good intentions, in good spiritis.”

Another ‘A' for Malkin

Malkin will be one of three alternate captains for Russia. The captain is Pavel Datsyuk, the other alternates are Alexander Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk.

You should see the first

Malkin's line with Ovechkin and Alexander Semin stayed together, and the Russians added a superb second line, as well, with the return to health of Datsyuk.

He'll be flanked by Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov.

“Yeah, they're pretty strong up front, huh?” Crosby cracked.

Jussi the checker

Jussi Jokinen is skating on the Finns' third, with center Petri Kontiola and right winger Juhamatti Aaltonen. Both play in Europe.

Drop the puck

Men's hockey formally begins Wednesday with Sweden-Czech Republic and Latvia-Switzerland.

Dejan Kovacevic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dkovacevic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Dejan_Kovacevic.

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