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Russia vs. Sweden

NHL.com @NHL
One of the favorites to win Group B when the Olympics began, Russia looks to rebound from a stunning loss in its Olympic opener when it meets Sweden on Thursday.

The Russians were unable to hold two one-goal leads Wednesday in a 5-3 loss to Slovakia. The Slovaks used their speed to consistently beat the Russian defense, and on the final two goals of the game, Slovakia's Marian Gaborik skated past two Russian defenders to seal the upset.

Russia had eight penalties and Slovakia capitalized, scoring two power-play goals.

"The bounces usually cost the game, and that's what happened," said Alexei Kovalev, the Russian captain. "It's a pretty big ice surface compared to the NHL, and if you kill penalties all the time, it takes the energy out of you. We've just got to adjust and not take too many penalties."

The Russians will be making a goaltending switch as San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov will replace Mighty Ducks' backup Ilya Bryzgalov, who had 31 stops Wednesday. Nabokov was expected to see most of the time in net, but Russian coach Vladimir Krikunov chose to go with the less-tested Bryzgalov instead.

"We must forget about this game," said Russia's Alexander Ovechkin, who scored a goal. "We play two games in two days all the time in the NHL, so that's OK."

Russia's superior offensive talent was on display - the top line of Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Kovalev combined for two goals and two assists - but the Russians couldn't keep pace with Slovakia, which outshot them 36-23.

"We're just trying to do our best," Kovalchuk said of his linemates. "We played a little bit together before."

Sweden routed Kazakhstan 7-2 in its opener Wednesday, looking like a team that has been playing together for more than a few days. The Swedes scored three goals on their first nine shots and were never challenged.

"I know we can do much better than we did, but I'm very satisfied we could win and get some goals, get some guys some confidence," Swedish coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson said. "We've got to build on this. It's the first time we've done something together as a team. It's a step in the right direction."

Sweden played without center Peter Forsberg, who is expected to miss this game to rest his sore groin. He should be in the lineup when the Swedes play Latvia on Saturday.

Although Henrik Lundqvist is Sweden's top goalie, he didn't get the start against Kazakhstan. Instead, Stefan Liv made his Olympic debut and needed to make only 12 saves in the victory.

Lundqvist should be in net against the more-talented Russians.

"They have a lot of skilled players, and we'll have to try to keep them under control," Gustafsson said of Russia. "It'll be a totally different game."

These teams haven't met in the Olympics since Sweden beat Russia 4-3 in the semifinals in 1994.

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