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Sochi hockey notebook: Martin's 'emotional' debut

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By Dejan Kovacevic
Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, 3:36 p.m.
 

SOCHI, Russia — Paul Martin, as open as any athlete Pittsburgh knows, acknowledged some intense emotions Thursday before and after the United States' opening 7-1 victory over Slovakia.

And small wonder: He was part of the taxi squad for the 2006 Games, then missed 2010 to a broken forearm, then nearly missed these with that broken tibia in November with the Penguins.

His name was announced through Shayba Arena as a starter, and that did it.

“You know, I grew up playing for my country, always wanting to play for my country,” Martin said Saturday after practice. “When you miss a couple Olympics and you're older, you appreciate it that much more. In that moment, it was emotional, definitely. I was out there on the ice skating around, just thinking, ‘I'm on the ice for my first Olympic game. It's happening.' ”

But nothing like afterward.

“My family's here and … we all got pretty choked up. In our world, we don't always appreciate how fortunate we are to do something we love for a living. I just wanted to take it all in.”

It'll be Quick

Team USA coach Dan Bylsma chose Jonathan Quick to start Saturday vs. Russia, essentially naming him the Americans' No. 1 goaltender without saying so.

“This is about one game,” Bylsma said. “I thought Jonathan made some big early stops on Slovakia.”

“I'm just grateful for the chance,” Quick said.

Bylsma made no changes to his lines or pairings, but Martin and Brooks Orpik could be paired Saturday.

The Crosby shuffle

Team Canada coach Mike Babcock promised impatience with Jeff Carter on Sidney Crosby's right wing, and he followed through: Carter was replaced after one game by reigning NHL scoring champ Martin St. Louis for the 6-0 shutout of Austria on Friday.

Crosby had one assist, on a Patrick Marleau tap-in. In general, St. Louis appeared more effective in reading off Crosby and Chris Kunitz.

Funny thing about Carter's demotion: He responded with a hat trick.

Kunitz jitters?

Kunitz hasn't been bad, but his play looked tight and lacked creativity. He remains scoreless through two games with three shots and an even rating.

With Babcock already having scratched the likes of Matt Duchene and Patrick Sharp, it can't be assumed he'll stick by Kunitz for Canada's toughest round-robin game, Sunday vs. Finland.

More Maatta

Olli Maatta's two goals and two assists have him tied for the Olympic tournament lead, including a goal and both assists in Finland's 6-1 walk over Norway on Friday.

Maatta scored late in the third, but his assists were prettiest: An end-to-end rush set up a Lauri Korpikoski goal in the first, and his wrister through traffic was deflected by Korpikoski in the second.

The punchline: Maatta achieved all that in 14 minutes, 56 seconds of ice time, about five minutes less than he would log in a typical NHL game.

Zetterberg out

Sweden announced before its 1-0 win over Switzerland that captain Henrik Zetterberg will miss the rest of the tournament because of a herniated disk, taking a third key player off their roster.

The Swedes were medal favorites a month ago, but since then the 2006 Olympic champions have lost three of their best forwards due to injuries: Zetterberg, Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen.

Still, with Friday's win, the Swedes (2-0) moved into a favorable position to earn a spot in the quarterfinals as the only undefeated team in Group C. With a victory over winless Latvia on Saturday, they would be among the final eight in the 12-nation tournament.

The Associated Press contributed. 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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