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Olympic playoff preview: Underdog Norway faces tall task in host Russia

Feb 17, 2014, 12:01 PM EST

DatsyukMalkin AP

The game: No. 5 Russia versus No. 12 Norway. Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. ET at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

How they got here: Russia didn’t capitalize on the three-point regulation win in the group stage, going to shootouts against the U.S. (loss) and Slovakia (win). As such, Russia failed to earn a quarterfinal bye despite going undefeated in regulation and OT.

Norway, meanwhile, seemed to get worse as the tournament went along — after opening with a gritty 3-1 loss to Canada, the Norwegians were blown out by Finland and lost to Austria, finishing 12th out of 12 teams.

Who’s hot: Evgeni Malkin leads the Russians with three points through three games (along with Alexander Radulov), and Pavel Datsyuk deserves mention for his virtuoso performance in Saturday’s loss to the Americans. Despite being hampered by a suspected knee injury, Datsyuk scored both goals against the U.S., won 14 of 22 faceoffs and scored in the shootout while logging nearly 21 minutes.

For Norway, ex-NHL forward Patrick Thoresen has been solid, scoring 1G-1A during the group phase while putting a team-high 12 shots on goal.

Who’s not: In spite of good production, it’s been a tough tournament for Radulov, who came under great scrutiny after taking a pair of bad penalties against the U.S. Speaking through a translator, Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov singled out Radulov after the game and suggested that he should be scratched “among other things.” (He didn’t scratch Radulov vs. Slovakia, though.) It’s also worth noting that Alex Ovechkin scored 77 seconds into the opening game of the tournament… and hasn’t found the back of the net since.

As Norway’s lone NHL player, Mats Zuccarello was expected to produce. He hasn’t. “The Hobbit” went scoreless through the first three group games and hasn’t been much of a factor at all.

X-Factor: The Crowd. If Norway is going to pull off a stunner — and, let’s be honest, it’s extremely unlikely — it needs to keep this game tight for as long as possible. That’s going to be difficult, because Russia has been energized by partisan support at the Bolshoy all tournament long, often using it to generate quick starts (scoring twice in first four minutes versus Slovenia, outshooting the U.S. 13-10 in the first period). The Russians are going to look to bury the Norwegians early and snuff out any ideas of an upset.

  1. hockey412 - Feb 17, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    Malkin has 3 points in 3 games and he’s “hot”…Crosby has 2 in 3 games and he’s the subject of 27 articles on underachieving.

  2. penvik - Feb 17, 2014 at 1:43 PM

    Crosby has actually played a great balance of hockey for 3 games. Malkin and most of the Russians have taken a lot of shifts off outside the American game.

  3. barkar942 - Feb 17, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    GO ZUCCARELLO!!!
    (Just remember, Mats- if you upset the Motherland team, you may never escape the Ice Dome, your score won’t appear on the roof, and you will be living in a cave in Siberia with Sasquatch!)
    Come back healthy and continue to lead the Rangers to the Cup!

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