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Russia's path to quarterfinals goes through Norway

by Jon Lane


When: Tuesday, 7:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN, CBC)

Where: Bolshoy Ice Dome

What's at stake: The heat is on for Russia, the host country of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, to win four straight games and win the gold medal. Despite a 1-0 shootout victory against Slovakia on Sunday, the Russians had to settle for the fifth seed and play-in game against Norway.

"Overall we've played well. Everybody wants to beat Russia at home," forward Alex Ovechkin said. "It's the Olympic Games; nobody wants to make mistakes. We take what we take, and we're going to play in the future."

Unlike Russia, little was expected from Norway, which finished the preliminary round as the No. 12 seed and will enter the game a loose bunch with everything to gain following a 3-1 loss to Austria on Sunday that cost it the No. 9 seed and a matchup with No. 8 Slovenia.

"Obviously, we're going to be meeting better opponents," Norway captain Ole-Kristian Tollefsen said. "It was a big carrot for us in this game to meet Slovenia in the next game, but we couldn't pull the effort off. We just didn't play good enough."

Norway: A win against Russia would give Norway its first Olympic victory since hosting the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. The Norwegians only managed one goal against Austria despite firing 35 shots on goalie Mathias Lange, including 17 in the first period, when they failed to score on a 72-second 5-on-3 power play late in the period.

"We have to get some goals," Tollefsen said. "Our PK has to get better. Our PP has to get better. There's a lot of stuff to work on."

Russia: It's gold or bust for the Russians, who in consecutive games played nail-biters against the United States (a 3-2 shootout loss) and Slovakia. If the Russians are looking for reason for optimism after the disappointing fifth seed, they can look back to the Vancouver Games four years ago, when Canada lost to the U.S. in the preliminary round before winning its next four do-or-die games en route to the gold medal.

"That's every game here. It's very intense," forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. "Even if you play against Slovenia or the USA, or [Sunday] against Slovakia, it doesn't matter. We couldn't find a way how to score, but we found a way to win."

Besides having to work extra hard, Russia is focusing on improving an offense that's scored seven goals in three games and has gone 2-for-13 on the power play.

Sergei Bobrovsky will get the start in goal for Russia. Bobrovsky made 31 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the United States on Saturday.

What's next: The winner plays Finland in the quarterfinals Wednesday.


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