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Practice Report

Patrik Laine ready to face idol for second time

Team Finland can't advance, but No. 2 pick at 2016 Draft focused on Team Russia, not Alex Ovechkin

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

TORONTO -- Team Finland forward Patrik Laine wishes his second showdown with his idol, Team Russia forward Alex Ovechkin, had as much meaning as the first one.

Laine, 18, played against Ovechkin for the first time May 21 at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in Russia. In the semifinal, Laine set up Jussi Jokinen for the game-winning goal in a 3-1 victory against Russia. Team Finland earned a silver medal after losing 2-0 to Canada in the gold-medal game.

Now, Team Finland and Team Russia meet again at Air Canada Centre on Thursday (3 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports). This time, the showdown has far less gravity, at least for Team Finland.

Team Finland was eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Wednesday when Team North America defeated Team Sweden 4-3 in overtime. Team Sweden (2-0-1, 5 points) advanced to the semifinals despite the loss to Team North America.

Team Russia (1-1-0, 2 points) can eliminate Team North America (2-1-0, 4 points) with a victory of any kind because it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker (4-3 win Monday).

Video: FIN@SWE: Laine shows off hands, rips a laser on net

"I think it will be just a normal game," Laine said Wednesday after practice. "I don't want to focus too much about who is against us. I know there are a lot of my childhood idols playing against me and my team. It's a new experience to play against those players and try to win and play a good game.

"We can't focus on one player. We have to focus on the team and play our game."

There may be a lot of idols in the game for Laine, but none are as special as Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals forward who has been named to the NHL First All-Star Team seven times in 11 seaons. Laine repeatedly has said that he has modeled much of his game, particularly his one-time shot, after the way Ovechkin plays.

"It's just nice to watch him play and score because I love to score," Laine told before being selected No. 2 in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets. "I watch how he shoots from different angles and from how far. He likes to play physical, too, and I've tried to do the same thing with the way I play."

The two players had a physical altercation in that semifinal game. Ovechkin caught Laine in the neutral zone late in the first period and flattened Laine. For the Finn, the hit was more memorable than painful. He later joked that he would not wash his jersey because Ovechkin touched it.

Ovechkin has made an impression on Laine, and vice versa

"I know he's a great young player, lots of talent, but, to be honest, I haven't had the time to look at his game," Ovechkin said after practice Wednesday. "I know he's going to be a very good player."

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