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Practice Report

Team Canada won't adapt for Team Russia

Will prepare to face skilled attack, but focus, as usual, remains playing its game

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

TORONTO -- Team Canada coach Mike Babcock didn't know it at the time he said it, but he perfectly summed up the World Cup of Hockey 2016 semifinal matchup between his team and Team Russia to be played Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports).

"Canada-Russia always sounds good," Babcock said just before Team Russia defeated Team Finland 3-0 in its final preliminary-round game Thursday to clinch a berth in the semifinal.

Team Europe will face Team Sweden in the other semifinal Sunday (1 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports). The winner of each semifinal will play a best-of-3 final starting Tuesday.

Team Canada defeated Team Russia 3-2 in overtime in the final pretournament game for each team Sept. 14 on a goal by Ryan Getzlaf. Team Canada pelted goalie Sergei Bobrovsky with 48 shots in that game but needed overtime to get the victory.

In a single-game elimination format, a similar situation easily could present itself, especially since Bobrovsky has not cooled down, putting up a .948 save percentage in three games and coming off the shutout of Team Finland.

Video: CZE@CAN: Marchand deflects Burns' one timer

Team Canada forward Brad Marchand said the Team Russia defense, which entered the tournament as the biggest question mark, has proven its doubters wrong and played well in front of Bobrovsky.

"They're good," Marchand said. "The knock on the European team was their goalie (Jaroslav Halak), and he's been incredible in this tournament. There's a lot of hearsay before tournaments, but guys step up to certain challenges, and that's what especially guys in this league do. They thrive on that, and the Russian team is playing very well, you have to give them some credit."

However, it is the Team Russia attack that will be the priority for Marchand and his Team Canada teammates.

"When they get going, they can create a lot of offense out of nothing," Marchand said. "That's the main thing. We have to play our system, we have to play it tight, and the way we play is more based and focused on us than other teams. But you have to play it tight on them and play hard. The big thing for us is, you can't turn pucks over against these teams; that's where they thrive, when we turn things over and they're able to capitalize on that. Just play a simple game."

The luxury for Team Canada's players is exactly that, they can afford to worry about only themselves because everyone else in the tournament generally is worried about them. Team Canada has won 13 straight games in best-on-best international competition.

"The way I've always looked at it, any successful team that you're on, I think that you worry more about yourselves because you can control what you do," Marchand said. "You can't control what the other team's going to do, you can't control how hard they play, the plays they make. But you can control your work ethic, being in the right position, playing the system the right way. So I just think that when teams are more concerned about worrying about themselves than other teams, that's when they'd be better."

Video: CZE@CAN: Crosby races back to break up a 2-on-1

Canada's international win streak includes a 7-3 win against Russia in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the last time these two countries faced off in a best-on-best tournament.

There are 12 players from that game who could be in uniform Saturday, four for Team Russia (Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeni Malkin, Andrei Markov and Alex Ovechkin) and eight for Team Canada (Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Jonathan Toews, Joe Thornton and Shea Weber).

Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok said he did not know if Datsyuk will be able to play in the semifinal after he missed the game against Team Finland with a lower-body injury. It could be the final time Datsyuk plays against Babcock, his coach with the Detroit Red Wings from 2005-15.

Datsyuk, 38, left the NHL in June after 14 seasons to play with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League.

"In his prime … I don't know how many years it was, but in my opinion, he was the best forward in hockey in that time," Babcock said. "Now, lots of people would say somebody else scored more points. He was the best player in hockey up front for a period of time, with and without the puck. He's special to watch, fun to watch in practice playing keep-away, doing the things he can do.

"Obviously, Pavel's legs aren't what they were, age catches up to all of us. But he's still an effective player and he's chosen to go home to be around his family, and that's good for Pavel."

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