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Sergei Bobrovsky shakes off rust for Team Russia

Jackets' No. 1 goalie has been strong in early stages of World Cup of Hockey

by Tom Gulitti /

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The wealth of talented forwards on Team Russia can sometimes make its goaltender's job pretty simple.



In most games, it is going to score enough to win as long the goalie makes timely saves.

Sergei Bobrovsky did that in a 4-3 win against Team Czech Republic in a World Cup of Hockey 2016 pretournament game at Yubileyny Sports Palace on Thursday.

Bobrovsky was twice the victim of a bad bounce in the third period when Team Czech Republic frantically tried to come back from trailing 3-1 and 4-2. But the Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender shook off those goals and preserved the win with an impressive left-toe save on Tomas Plekanec off a 2-on-1 rush with 1:07 remaining in the third period.

"I just play by moment," Bobrovsky said. "I was fortunate enough that I kicked it out."









It initially appeared Plekanec had a sure tying goal in front of him when he took the return pass from Jakub Voracek on the odd-man rush. But Bobrovsky read the play and got over to the right post in time to at least cover the lower part of the net.

"It's an empty net. It's got to be a goal," Plekanec said. "He made a great save though. He was there quick. I hit it right away. It was a one-timer to the net. I should have put it upstairs, but it was a great save."

Bobrovsky, who turns 28 on Sept. 20, made 29 saves, including 12 in the third period when Team Russia was outshot 14-5. He seemed to want back Michal Kempny's left-point shot that beat him to the short side 3:54 into the game.

Other than that, he was solid and clutch. He certainly couldn't be blamed for the power-play goal credited to Martin Hanzal that pulled Team Czech Republic to within 3-2 at 6:48 of the third period. Hanzal was attempting to make a behind-the-back centering pass and the puck caromed in off the left leg of Team Russia defenseman Alexey Marchenko.

After Evgeny Dadonov put Team Russia ahead 4-2 with his one-timer from the right circle, Bobrovsky was victimized again when Roman Polak's right-point shot hit Plekanec in the pants and went into the net.

Bobrovsky admitted to feeling some rust, understandable considering he hadn't played since Russia defeated the United States in the World Championship bronze-medal game on May 22.

"It was a weird feeling to be honest, but it was the first game," Bobrovsky said. "I felt better as the game went on."













With Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche and Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning also on the roster, Bobrovsky faces tough competition to be Team Russia's No. 1 goalie. Although Bobrovsky appears to have the inside track because of his experience playing for coach Oleg Znarok at the World Championship each of the past three years, Znarok said Thursday the plan is to give each goaltender a look during three pretournament games.

Znarok did not say who will start the rematch with Team Czech Republic at O2 Arena in Prague on Saturday (10:30 a.m. ET; ESPN3, SN360, TVA Sports), but Varlamov appears to be the next one up. So the game Thursday might have been Bobrovsky's only chance to audition for the No. 1 job before Team Russia plays its tournament opener against Team Sweden at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sept. 18 (3 p.m. ET: ESPN, SN, TVA Sports).

"I don't think about it, personally." Bobrovsky said. "I just want to be ready for the tournament and get my game back and get it all together."



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