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U.S. to deploy two shut-down pairings against Russia

by Dan Rosen

SOCHI -- The United States will try to stifle Russia's skill Saturday with two shut-down defense pairs playing in front of starting goalie Jonathan Quick.

Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin, a regular pair with the Pittsburgh Penguins, skated together in practice Friday and are expected to be together Saturday, when the Americans take on the Russians at Bolshoy Ice Dome in Group A preliminary-round play (7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC). Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh were the other shut-down pair.

Orpik and Martin are expected to get a lot of ice time against Russia’s top line of Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Suter and McDonagh likely will see plenty of Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov.

Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler and John Carlson will be the other American defensemen in the game. Justin Faulk is going to be scratched for the second straight game.

"With Malkin and Ovechkin and Datsyuk, Semin and Kovalchuk, they have extraordinary skill, elite skill, and that's something we have to be keenly aware of and know about their team," Bylsma said. "We'll be seeing maybe a situation where we have the matchup, so we do have the ability to maybe follow them more closely on the ice with our matchups."

Orpik and Martin have squared off against Ovechkin numerous times in the NHL. When healthy they also have been a defense pair for the Penguins for the better part of this season and last season.

"We kind of know where we're going to be and what to expect out of each other," Martin said. "Keep it simple and communicate well, and at the same time we don't really have a lot of panic. We're pretty good at trying to keep it even-keeled and do a good job that way. It's easy to play with Brooks so he makes it that much easier for me to play."

Bylsma told reporters not to read too much into the forward combinations the Americans used in practice Friday. But if they do stick an interesting change is at left wing, where Dustin Brown and Patrick Kane swapped spots. Brown moved to what likely would be a shut-down line with David Backes and Ryan Callahan while Kane was skating with Ryan Kesler and Zach Parise.

The other two lines stayed the same; Joe Pavelski was between James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel, and Paul Stasnty was centering Max Pacioretty and T.J. Oshie.

Blake Wheeler will be the 13th forward for the Americans. Derek Stepan will be scratched for the second straight game.


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