US-Russia hockey matchup rekindles classic rivalry

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press
Paul Martin will take a moment to listen to the echoes of history when the U.S. men

USA defenseman John Carlson, right, is congratulated for his goal against Slovakia by USA forward James van Riemsdyk during the 2014 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

SOCHI, Russia (AP) Paul Martin will take a moment to listen to the echoes of history when the U.S. men's hockey team skates into the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Saturday to face Russia and an overflowing crowd of fevered fans.

"We don't know exactly what it's going to be like for a U.S. team in that situation," Martin said, "but we can't wait to find out."

After that moment, the U.S. defenseman will get back to work on slowing down a Russian team with an entire nation willing it to victory in the revival of a classic hockey rivalry.

The latest U.S.-Russia showdown is the undeniable highlight of the preliminary round in Sochi, even though the loser remains firmly in the medal hunt. Sochi's sparkling new hockey arena was built with just such a moment in mind, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the game.

Although the sociopolitical aspects of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" and other past matchups have vanished in the 21st century, the next generation of players can't wait to play their own part in this epic story, even if the only prize is a clear path to the quarterfinals.

"They have a good roster," Ilya Kovalchuk said of the Americans. "A lot of the guys have played in Vancouver (in 2010), so they know what it's like to win. It will be a good test for us."

The rest of Saturday's slate includes Switzerland taking on the Czech Republic in both nations' third game in four days. Unbeaten Sweden faces winless Latvia, and Slovakia meets Slovenia in the early game.

But the other 10 nations will be eager to see what happens between the Americans, who thrashed Slovakia 7-1 in their opener, and the Russians, who survived a few nervous moments in a 5-2 win over Slovenia.

"It's only another team in another country for us," said Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk, who lives in that country during the Detroit Red Wings' season. "USA is definitely not Slovenia. USA is a much tougher opponent, and we will have a good test."

The game presents a clear contrast in hockey styles along with those classically clashing uniforms. The Americans' workmanlike, defensive approach is a tough matchup for the mercurial, high-octane Russians, who rely on two top lines of world-class scorers.

U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick will get a second straight start over 2010 Olympic star Ryan Miller. Quick isn't intimidated by the historical implications of the matchup, or the noise their fans might generate.

"I'm sure it's going to be loud, and a lot of emotion in the arena, so we're looking forward to it," Quick said. "This is the kind of game that you want to play, that you want to be a part of, so it's going to be fun."

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