ShareThis Page

Sochi hockey notebook: Kunitz dropped to fourth line on Team Canada

| Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, 10:48 p.m.

SOCHI, Russia — It didn't take long for Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby to be separated. But then, the Olympic hockey tournament isn't long.

Kunitz was dropped to the fourth line for Canada's 2-1 overtime win Sunday over Finland, skating with John Tavares, Rick Nash and Patrick Sharp rotating through as an extra forward. The result wasn't much better, as Kunitz was robbed on his best chance by a spectacular glove save from Tuukka Rask.

That left Kunitz with no points, four shots and a visible bundle of nerves through the three-game round robin.

“I think Kunitz did real good where he was,” Canada coach Mike Babcock said, referring to the first two games. “But to me, this wasn't about Kunitz. It was about our overall team and just trying to find things that work.”

Crosby's completely new line — his fourth combination in as many games — had him flanked by Jamie Benn and Patrice Bergeron. It was no upgrade.

The problem is hardly new. Babcock struggled just as much to find wingers for Crosby in Vancouver four years ago, which is one reason — though Canadian officials deny it was the primary reason — Kunitz was added to this roster.

Unlikely feud

Crosby had the unlikeliest of lengthy chirping sessions with Finland's Teemu Selanne, famously one of the NHL's cleanest players. After Crosby was taken down in the first period to draw a Finland penalty, Selanne skated up to Crosby and — according to an NBC reporter at ice level — accused him of diving. The two stayed at it the rest of the period.

Selanne laughed it off afterward: “A Norwegian ref wouldn't have called a penalty there.”

Crosby similarly downplayed it: “I leave conversation on the ice on the ice. Two guys competing, obviously emotional. If he wants to talk about it, let him, but I don't think it was much. Just two guys who are pretty intense.”

Maatta dissatisfied

Olli Maatta's competitive nature was on display again after Finland's OT loss when he clearly took no solace in helping to hold the mighty Canadians to one regulation goal.

“We can play a lot better defensively than that,” Maatta said. “We have to get a lot tighter.”

Maatta was clipped near the right eye by a Nash high stick in the second period but returned for the third and expressed no problem.

Malkin scoreless

Despite registering five shots, Evgeni Malkin was held without a point for a second consecutive game in Russia's 1-0 shootout win over a poor Slovakia team.

Malkin's line, with Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, remained intact despite none of them scoring since the opening game. There's no indication that will change.

Hockey a hit

Pittsburgh's 9.8 local rating for the U.S.-Russia game Saturday was No. 1 in the country, according to NBC Sports Network, which carried it. That means about 294,000 regional viewers watched the game.

Boston was next with a 9.2 rating, then Buffalo at 8.5.

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.