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U.S.- Russia: Three things to watch

Feb 15, 2014, 2:50 AM EDT

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Jonathan Quick #32 of United States in action against Slovakia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Getty Images

The showcase game of the Olympic preliminary round goes this evening in Sochi, as the United States meets the host Russians at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Here are three things to watch, besides the hostile crowd.

1. Jonathan Quick: Will make his second consecutive start for the U.S. after allowing just one goal in Thursday’s 7-1 win over Slovakia. With another solid outing, the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner should get the nod once the win-or-go-home games begin. But what if he isn’t so solid? Ryan Miller, the Americans’ best player in the 2010 Games, is waiting in the wings, and his NHL numbers this season are actually better than Quick’s. The U.S. plays its last game of the preliminary round tomorrow versus Slovenia. Head coach Dan Bylsma might be planning to start Miller in that one anyway, if only to avoid Quick playing three games in four nights. But — and this is pure speculation — if Quick has a rough outing versus the Russians, Miller could be auditioning for the starting job versus the Slovenians.

2. Top-end talent versus depth: The Russians have the edge in the former, with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Semin, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov comprising their top six forwards. However, the Americans have the edge in the latter, at least based on what they displayed versus Slovakia. Bylsma was particularly complimentary of his fourth line, made up of Paul Stastny, T.J. Oshie and Max Pacioretty, and that trio could even see some time against the top Russians.

3. The officiating. The referees will be American Brad Meier and Swede Marcus Vinnerborg. If they call it tight, Russia’s loaded power play — which went 1-for-3 versus Slovenia — could be a big factor. Nothing against all the talented scorers on the Americans, but “blue-collar” teams who prides themselves on being “tough to play against” — Bylsma’s words — don’t typically want tightly officiated games.

  1. jhaegs - Feb 15, 2014 at 3:24 AM

    Can’t wait to watch Backes running people over again… as long as he goes easy on Tarasenko ;)

  2. djshnooks - Feb 15, 2014 at 3:59 AM

    Without Miller in 2010, USA doesn’t medal.

    This is garbage. Quick has been injured most the year, and he’s not even the best goalie in LA this year. Bylsma’s terrible.

    I hope Russia embarrasses Quick.

    Miller’s stats are not only better, but he’s on a much worse team, with a much worse defense. And it’s his last chance for redemption from Vancouver in 2010.

    Sorry, but I’m pissed about this. It has nothing to do with who my NHL team is…Miller’s a better goalie and with more experience. He’s earned and deserves it.

    • bowltr - Feb 15, 2014 at 7:10 AM

      You’re a traitor!. So because your favorite player isn’t starting you’re going to root against your nation? Go live in Moscow with Snowden you commy pig!

    • patthehockeyfan - Feb 15, 2014 at 7:11 AM

      “I hope Russia embarrasses Quick.”

      So, if Quick has a (another) outstanding performance and the U.S. wins, you won’t be happy? You’d rather see the U.S. lose in order to vindicate your remarks about Miller?

      Sad.

  3. westof1club - Feb 15, 2014 at 4:53 AM

    Watching Slovakia choke reminds me the US isn’t as good as their score indicated, and Slovenia isn’t the cupcake everybody assumed they were because Russia didn’t win big.

    US loses handily to a vastly more talented Russia squad.

    • gallyhatch - Feb 15, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      How’s that prediction working out for you?

    • badgerhockey77 - Feb 15, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      USA just beat Russia…and you are an idiot! Typical Canadian hater.

  4. imgoingtowichita - Feb 15, 2014 at 7:53 AM

    Happy.

  5. rico33rd - Feb 15, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    Good luck US, take the North American style in there and kick some butt!

  6. imgoingtowichita - Feb 15, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Shocking that Brown and Radulov take selfish penalties that lead to ppg’s.

    • paperlions - Feb 15, 2014 at 9:51 AM

      Brown with another knee on knee cheap shot as well.

      • badgerhockey77 - Feb 15, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        Lets see if Bylsma has the balls to bench Dustin Brown next game. He should never been selected for Team USA. He single handedly almost lost the game for us. Idiot!

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