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KHLer Popov takes Semin’s spot on Ovechkin, Malkin line

Feb 17, 2014, 10:41 AM EDT

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Alexander Semin #28 of Russia skates against Slovenia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Getty Images

After netting just two goals in regulation over their last two contests, it looks like the Russians will be trying out some new combinations when they play Norway on Tuesday.

Alexander Semin was knocked off the top line during Monday’s practice, allowing Alexander Popov to skate alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin instead, according to Puck Daddy and TSN’s Dmitry Chesnokov.

Popov, 33, has spent his entire career playing in Russia. He had 14 goals and 32 points in 46 games with the KHL’s Omsk Avangard in 2013-14.

The line of Semin, Ovechkin, and Malkin certainly looked dangerous on paper, but they didn’t live up to expectations for very long. The trio hasn’t scored since combining for two goals in the first four minutes of Russia’s tournament opener against Slovenia.

Semin was knocked off of the top-six entirely as he skated with Artem Anisimov and Nikolai Kulemin.

Naturally these lines have to be taken with a grain of salt, not just because they were used during an off-day practice, but also because Ilya Kovalchuk is dealing with an ailment. Russia head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said Kovalchuk will play on Tuesday, but the 30-year-old missed Monday’s skate and Viktor Tikhonov consequently kept his spot warm. If Kovalchuk can’t play tomorrow, then Bilyaletdinov might significantly restructure his lines rather than let Tikhonov make his Olympic debut on the second unit.

  1. lonespeed - Feb 17, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Syomin (Semin) didn’t look comfortable in his role after being red hot for Carolina the past few weeks. They had him parked in front of the net on power-plays and he wasn’t looking for a shot on five-on-five play.

    I think the demotion will be a good one for him. He and Alexander Ovechkin’s game is similar, and you don’t need two snipers on the same line.

    I think one of key problems is Ovechkin himself, but no one is willing to do anything about it because he’s such a key face for Russian hockey. But he is such a ‘win by more’ guy. He’s there to pile on the goals when the team wins by 3 or 4, but when you need him in a pinch, he’s not effective. He disappears when the other team chooses to take away his one-timer on the power-play.

    It’s so frustrating to watch him play. While his team mates dig for pucks, he circles, and circles, and circles, stick up in the air waiting for the puck to come free. Then there will be a turn-over, and he’s out of position. But because the puck does bounce his way in some situations (one-timers and break-outs) and he has such a high prowess at converting those opportunities, no one does anything about the rest of his game.

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