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IIHF Worlds: Russia rolls along in preliminary round

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Russia closed out its preliminary round schedule on Monday afternoon with the biggest offensive output of the 2013 IIHF World Hockey Championship.

After suffering two disappointing losses to France (2-1) and Finland (3-1) last week, the Russians needed to bounce back in their last two preliminary games and get the ship righted before the quarterfinals begin later this week. Step one was closing out a tight game with Slovakia on Sunday in which Russia led 2-1 after two periods, only to see the Slovaks come with a strong push early in the third period.

Veteran defenseman Denis Denisov scored a huge goal for Russia at 4:48 of the third period, answering Slovakia's brief flurry with the insurance tally to make it a 3-1 game. Ilya Bryzgalov - who has been solid for Russia in the tournament - held Slovakia off the board the rest of the way to earn an important victory for his club.

In that game, Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov was yet again one of Russia's most consistent players in the middle of the ice. Not only did he win 10-of-15 face-offs in the game, he created some chances and had the attention of Slovakia's defense. Anisimov, who has played in all seven preliminary round games so far, logged 14:30 on the afternoon.

Fedor Tyutin was +1 in the victory over Slovakia and played 21:45 (the vast majority of it at even strength) alongside Denisov.

But perhaps what Russia needed most was to see the puck go into the net...often.

Widely considered an odds-on contender (with Canada) for the gold medal at this year's tournament, the Russians haven't really broken out offensively. They did score five goals in a win over the United States last week, but ever since, haven't strung together a ton of offense.

On Monday, their offensive struggles reversed - if only temporarily.

The two teams exchanged six goals in a frantic first period, and the Austrians seemed to have an answer for every Russian goal. But three more goals for Russia in the second period allowed them to pull away, taking a 6-4 lead into the third period.

Anisimov appeared to score the Russians' seventh goal of the day, but it was reviewed and awarded to defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, who took the initial shot from the point. The call on the ice was a deflection for Anisimov, but video replay proved otherwise.

Other notes as the quarterfinal round looms:

- Russia's 29 goals were the most scored by any team in the tournament through Monday's games. So much for those scoring woes...for now, at least. They will be seeded no lower than third when the quarterfinal round begins later this week.

- Anisimov's line: 7 GP, one assist, +4, and averaging around 58 percent in the face-off circle. He's averaging 13:42 TOI per game according to the IIHF's official website.

- Similarly, Tyutin has 7 GP, is a +3 and playing 16:13 on average. He has primarily been paired with Denisov and Yevgeni Medvedev in the opening round.

- Anisimov has mostly played center ice in the first seven games, but on Monday, he shifted to left wing on a line with Kirill Petrov and Evgeni Kuznetsov.

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