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Sochi hockey notebook: Bylsma won't use Penguins' system

| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 10:00 a.m.
REUTERS
U.S. coach Dan Bylsma talks to goalie Jonathan Quick during a training session on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

SOCHI, Russia — Dan Bylsma is a passionate believer in the system he employs as Penguins' coach, but he won't be applying it to Team USA.

Mostly, he said, because he can't.

“Even if it was easy to teach something in three days, it's going to be different than what we do in Pittsburgh,” Bylsma said. “There are certain things about the international game, the big ice, that are different. We have to take that into consideration. We want to move quickly, but we have to be more careful with the puck. We have to play a more patient game, not miss on long stretch passes and that sort of thing because of the width of the rink.”

Defenseman Ryan Suter called Bylsma's system here “pretty basic, easy to pick up.”

A Quick start

Bylsma's first big decision has been made: Jonathan Quick will start in goal Thursday vs. Slovakia. Bylsma had been hinting he'd go with Ryan Miller because of Quick's injury-riddled season in Los Angeles.

Bylsma made clear this would not reflect on his choice for Saturday versus Russia: “We have plans for Game 1.”

“I'm fortunate for the opportunity,” Quick said, “and I'll just try to make the most of it.”

Other starters among Olympic teams with Penguins playing Thursday: Canada will go with Carey Price vs. Norway, Finland with Tuukka Rask vs. Austria, Russia with Sergei Bobrovsky or Semyon Varlamov vs. Slovenia.

Malkin off power play

Easily the biggest surprise of the early practices is Russia's decision to not use Evgeni Malkin on the top power-play unit.

Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov is going with a No. 1 unit of Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Radulov up front, with Andrei Markov and forward Alexander Ovechkin on the points. Malkin is on the second unit with Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Semin.

Finns loaded in net

Finland is missing Mikko Koivu, and Valtteri Filppula and will be hard-pressed to score. But the Finns have the deepest — maybe the best — goaltending in the tournament in Rask, Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen.

“We're going to be underdogs losing those scorers, but we can rely on our team game and goaltending,” Jussi Jokinen said. “That's our key.”

Some hospitality

While most NHL players are living two to a room in the Olympic Village — Crosby is paired with Shea Weber, for instance — the Russians all have single rooms. And they apparently aren't about to offer to bunk up.

“This is our house,” said assistant coach Alexei Kasatonov, a former NHL and Soviet Red Army defenseman.

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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