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Posted On Tuesday, 02.18.2014 / 9:28 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Canada juggles lines again, Kunitz back with Crosby

SOCHI -- Another day, another set of linemates for Sidney Crosby.

Canada coach Mike Babcock shuffled his deck of forwards again at practice Tuesday, reuniting the Pittsburgh Penguins duo of Chris Kunitz and Crosby on a line with Patrice Bergeron.

Crosby has had different linemates during Canada's three preliminary-round games here at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and it looks like he will again when Canada plays Latvia in the quarterfinals Wednesday (Noon ET, MSNBC, CBC).

"I think you prepared yourself for that when you got selected to the team," Kunitz said Tuesday after practice. "They're going to try to put the best combinations [for] our team … to win. Wherever they put that, now you want to go on the ice and have your best game."

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Posted On Sunday, 02.16.2014 / 9:11 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Russia's Kovalchuk returns for third period

SOCHI -- Russia forward Ilya Kovalchuk returned for the third period of his team's Group A game against Slovakia on Sunday after missing the final minutes of the second with an apparent leg injury.

Kovalchuk was fighting for a puck with Slovakia forward Richard Panik in the Russian zone when the two fell awkwardly to the ice. Kovalchuk appeared to be in pain as he writhed on the ice for a few moments, but he was able to get up and limp toward the Russian bench under his own power.

Kovalchuk remained on the bench for a few minutes testing the leg and standing on it before leaving for the dressing room.

But when the third period started Kovalchuk was on the ice for the completion of a Russia power play.

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Posted On Sunday, 02.16.2014 / 6:14 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Price in goal; Subban, St. Louis scratched for Canada

SOCHI -- It appears the starting goaltending job for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics is now Carey Price's to lose.

The Montreal Canadiens goaltender will get the nod over Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks when Canada plays Finland with first place in Group B on the line at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Sunday (12 p.m.; USA, CBC).

This game being Canada's final one before entering the knockout phase of the tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the lineup chosen by coach Mike Babcock and his coaching staff took on greater importance.

Babcock did acknowledge that reality Saturday when speaking to the media on Canada's day off, but he reminded everyone that it is now up to Price to hold on to the job he's been given.

"We had a plan coming in and we haven't changed our plan," Babcock said after Canada's morning skate Sunday. "I've said this many times; at the Olympic Games you're allowed one [goalie] change."

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Posted On Saturday, 02.15.2014 / 5:38 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Babcock to take his time on goalie, lineup decisions

SOCHI -- Mike Babcock is in no hurry.

With an entire nation wondering what Canada's coach will do in terms of his starting goaltender and lineup for the final game of preliminary-round play, Babcock said Saturday he will take all the time he has available to him prior to the showdown with Finland on Sunday (Noon ET; USA, CBC).

"Believe me, these decisions aren't easy," Babcock said. "They're difficult because they're personal, because it's about a player. When you have an interaction with a player, that's personal. But it's not about them. It's about our country and it's about making the right decisions.
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Posted On Thursday, 02.13.2014 / 3:54 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

St. Louis, Hamhuis in lineup for Canada's opener

SOCHI -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban and Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene will have to wait another day to make their Olympic debuts.

Canada coach Mike Babcock said Subban and Duchene will sit out its opening game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics against Norway on Thursday (12 p.m. ET, USA, CBC), but will play Friday against Austria (12 p.m. ET, USA, CBC).

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis, who was a late addition to the team when Steven Stamkos was ruled out due to injury, and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis will play Thursday, with Hamhuis making his Olympic debut.

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Posted On Wednesday, 02.12.2014 / 11:28 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Canada's Vlasic enjoying life under the radar

SOCHI -- San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic has flown under the radar at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and it suits him just fine.

He's used to it.

Vlasic quietly has been going about his business becoming one of the NHL's most reliable shut-down defensemen for years, shielded somewhat from fans on the East Coast while he plays late at night with the Sharks.

Even on his own NHL team Vlasic plays in the shadows of higher-profile teammates like Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and his teammate on the Canadian team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Patrick Marleau.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.11.2014 / 2:58 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Karlsson sees no benefit playing on bigger ice

SOCHI -- One of the players many considered would best be able to exploit the extra space available on the international ice surface was Sweden defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The Ottawa Senators offensive wizard has the smooth skating stride and ice vision that seems tailor made for the extra 15 feet of width on the ice rinks in use for the tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

But there is one person who doesn't agree with the perception that he will benefit from playing on the big ice: Erik Karlsson.

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Posted On Monday, 02.10.2014 / 10:53 AM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - Road to Sochi blog

Russian defense looking to step up in Sochi

SOCHI -- When Russia announced its roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the configuration of its blue line appeared to be set in stone.

With two sets of teammates named among the eight defensemen on the team, it would be natural to assume that Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin of the Montreal Canadiens and Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin of the Columbus Blue Jackets would be playing together.

Markov and Emelin have played on the same defense pairing for the better part of two seasons in Montreal. Tyutin and Nikitin haven't played together lately, but they have in the past.

When the Russians hit the ice at the Bolshoy Ice Dome for their first practice as a full team Monday, however, neither of the two natural pairings on defense were together.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.04.2014 / 2:02 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Intriguing returns for Flames' Hartley, Cammalleri

MONTREAL -- There will be two rather different homecomings for the Calgary Flames when they face the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre on Tuesday.

On the one hand is a more traditional homecoming for Flames coach Bob Hartley, whose hometown of Hawkesbury, Ontario is about an hour outside Montreal. He also will face his former assistant coach from his days with the Laval Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien.

"It's fun," Hartley said. "I grew up in this area. There are lots of minor hockey friends, lots of school friends. But more importantly we have a big game [Tuesday]. I'm coaching against one of my best buddies, coaching against a former partner of mine. That makes it even more special."

On the other hand there will be a very different kind of homecoming for Flames forward Mike Cammalleri.

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Posted On Sunday, 02.02.2014 / 12:46 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Montoya to start for Jets against Price, Canadiens

MONTREAL – Backup Al Montoya will start in goal for the Winnipeg Jets when they face the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday at Bell Centre.

Montoya's only start in the Jets' past 11 games was a 35-save effort in a 3-1 victory on the road against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Carey Price will start in goal for a second straight day for the Canadiens, who will complete their traditional set of matinees on Super Bowl weekend after a 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday.

Michael Bournival missed the game Saturday with a virus but will return against the Jets. George Parros will be scratched for the Canadiens, leaving rookie Christian Thomas to take his spot on the fourth line after playing 8:16 in his Canadiens debut on Saturday.

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Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff