'Miracle' far from U.S.' minds

Both the U.S. and Russia are coming off wins in their tournament opener, although the Russians were a little bit more sluggish, perhaps owing to the nerves that are part of their Olympic lives as the host team, coming on late to beat Slovenia 5-2 on Thursday.

"It's important," former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk said after the Russians finished their late-day practice. "We were very excited for the tournament because it's at home; it's a special event for us for sure, but some guys, it was their first experience in the Olympic Games, so that takes a little nervousness, too. The first game is always important to win, but the second game -- we're going to play against U.S. -- It's a great opportunity to test ourselves. It'll be a great challenge for us.

"It'll be a fast game for sure, an exciting game. I think it will be tough, a lot of skating. On the big rink it's tough to hit but I bet you there will be a lot of hits, as well."

The Americans, for their part, were dominant in a 7-1 whipping of Slovakia in their first game.

The game featured a potent, diverse U.S. attack and very few nerves from a blue line that is dominated by young, talented but inexperienced, at least at this level, defensemen.

If the theory holds that to win Olympic gold means constantly evolving over the course of a tournament, then Saturday represents a next step for both of these teams.

The Russians, we imagine, will be less jittery in their second go-round and ice the top two offensive lines in the tournament with Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, who opened the scoring for the Russians early in their first game, and Alexander Semin followed by Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Alexander Radulov.

Reminded of the Russians' quick start against Slovenia (the Ovechkin line scored on its first two shifts), Bylsma joked that he wasn't all that enthused about facing the host Russians.

"Am I excited?" he said with a laugh. "I'm not excited about that. No, I'm not. I'm not excited about that.

"They have extraordinary skill, elite skill, and that's something that we have to be keenly aware of and know about their team. We'll be seeing maybe a situation where we have the matchup, so we do have the ability to maybe follow them a little bit more closely on the ice with our matchups.

"I think when you look at our pool draw, [we're] a little nervous about this being the second game. Slovakia being a test for our team and a big test in Game 1, but not to be overlooked is we knew Game 2 was against the Russians on their home soil, and we know how important it is for them to do well here and do well and win a gold medal here. This is going to be a huge test for our team tomorrow."

To counter the Ovechkin unit, Bylsma may go with a hard-checking forward line of Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown and Backes, with Zach Parise moving up to a line with Ryan Kesler and Patrick Kane.

Bylsma has also reunited his Pittsburgh shutdown tandem on defense, Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik. They have had success in the past against Semin and Ovechkin and, of course, they know the mannerisms and moves of Malkin.

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