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Sochi hockey notebook: Malkin blanked by U.S.

| Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, 12:40 p.m.
REUTERS
Russia's Evgeni Malkin (left) spins away from Team USA's Ryan McDonagh during the first period of their men's preliminary round ice hockey game at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014.
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Team USA's Zach Parise challenges Russia's Evgeni Malkin for the puck during their men's preliminary round ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

SOCHI, Russia – Evgeni Malkin's odd Olympics continued with a scoreless output in Russia's 3-2 shootout loss Saturday to the United States.

He again was among his team's most passionate performers, and that began even in warmups when he stayed on the ice well after his teammates had left, leaning over with his stick on his knees, head down, barely moving near the Russian net.

Once the puck dropped, he was dangerous on nearly every shift.

And yet, Russia coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov continued to keep him off the top power play — including one that opened the third period with a 2-2 tie — and gave up on him in the shootout after one failed attempt. (Actually a sharp blocker save by Jonathan Quick.) Bilyaletdinov alternated Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk the rest of the way, also leaving Alex Ovechkin, the world's most dangerous sniper, on the bench.

What Malkin thinks of all this remains a mystery. He hasn't spoken with North American media since the Olympics started. Not that anyone should take it personally. Other members of the Penguins' contingent say they haven't heard from him in days, either.

Orpik, Martin steady

As they'd thought the previous day, Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin played as a pair and matched up — most of the time, anyway — against the Ovechkin-Malkin-Alexander Semin line. Orpik was a minus-1 because a forward failed to pick up Datsyuk early in the neutral zone. Martin had an even rating and was the Americans' coolest with the puck at any position.

Cam Fowler, another defenseman who scored a goal, said he was impressed: “Those two have played together a long time and know what they're doing. I thought they did a great job, as did all our guys and Quick in shutting them down. Lots of firepower over there.”

Miller vs. Slovenia?

Bylsma wouldn't divulge his starter for the Americans' final round-robin game Sunday vs. Slovenia, but given Quick's extra workload against Russia, plus the need to keep Ryan Miller sharp if needed in the medal round, it would be surprising if Miller doesn't start.

Kunitz scratch?

On the eve of Canada facing Finland on Sunday, Canadian reporters peppered coach Mike Babcock with questions about possible lineup changes, predominantly whether Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz — of all duos — have shown enough chemistry together.

Crosby has one assist, and Kunitz is scoreless through two games.

“From a purely statistical point of view, you'd say no,” Babcock said. “From the way they played, I think so. I think they do a lot of good things together. But we're talking about one line. I'm not worried about one line. I'm worried about all the lines.”

More unbeatens

Crosby expects a smart, patient game between Canada and Finland, both 2-0.

“We know that they're strong as a team, defensively and in goal,” Crosby said. “We expected they'd be one of the better teams here.”

Don't be surprised if there's a second consecutive day of Penguins-on-Penguins matchups, as Olli Maatta and defense partner Sami Salo have been strong for Finland.

Record stream

The USA-Russia game was the most streamed hockey game in NBC Sports and NBC Olympics history, surpassing the record-setting 2014 NHL Stanley Cup Final, the network said.

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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