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Practice Report

Pavel Datsyuk's status for semifinal uncertain

Team Russia center sat out World Cup game vs. Finland with lower-body injury, did not practice Friday

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Pavel Datsyuk's status for Team Russia's World Cup of Hockey 2016 semifinal against Team Canada on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA Sports) remained uncertain after he did not take part in the team's optional practice at Air Canada Centre on Friday.

The 38-year-old center sat out Team Russia's 3-0 preliminary-round victory against Team Finland on Thursday with a lower-body injury that caused him to leave practice on Wednesday.

"We'll do everything for him to make him healthy, but we do not have any answers as of right now," Team Russia assistant coach Harijs Vitolinsh said. "[Saturday] we have the morning skate as well, so we have some time."

Datsyuk has two assists in two games in the World Cup. He played 18:57, most among Team Russia forwards, and assisted on Vladimir Tarasenko's winning goal in a 4-3 victory against Team North America on Monday.

Video: RUS@NAT: Tarasenko spins and scores through a screen

Although Team Russia was able to win without Datsyuk against Team Finland, it will face a more difficult challenge against Team Canada, which went 3-0-0 and outscored its opponents 14-3 in the preliminary round. Having a healthy Datsyuk, who plays 5-on-5, on the power play and the penalty kill, would help.

"He definitely is one of our key players," Vitolinsh said. "He's helping out the guys being a leader and helping out in different situations as a penalty killer and all of that."

Datsyuk is one of Team Russia's alternate captains and is well-respected in its locker room. He played 14 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, winning the Stanley Cup twice, before retiring from the NHL after last season and returning to Russia to finish his career.

"He's not the most vocal guy, but when something needs to be said he speaks up," right wing Vladislav Namestnikov said. "Mainly, he leads by example, on and off the ice. If you make a mistake, he'll come up and say what you did wrong and give you some tips. He's just a great guy in general."

Datsyuk was off to a strong start this season in the Kontinental Hockey League with SKA St. Petersburg, with four goals and three assists in six games, before leaving to join Team Russia for the World Cup.

"He is so good; so skilled and so smart," said Team Russia right wing Evgeny Dadonov, who plays with Datsyuk on SKA St. Petersburg. "I have been practicing and playing with him the last few months, so I have been learning some of the little things he does on the ice that can help other players. If you try these things, your game is going to be better.

"He's a nice guy. He does everything for us. If you have a question for the coach, he goes and asks because the guys ask him. He's a great person, not only on the ice but off ice too."

 Video: FIN@RUS: Ovechkin discusses Team Russia's 3-0 victory


History lessons 

Team Russia and Team Canada last met in a best-against-best tournament in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Canada scored the first three goals and led 6-1 by 4:07 of the second period on the way to an easy 7-3 victory.

Although Team Canada has eight players who played in that game, Team Russia has five and 6 ½ years have passed, the game still has some lessons for Team Russia.

"It was in the past, but we do have the videos and we will review those and we're looking at those mistakes we might have done or the other team's strengths," Vitolinsh said.

One of Team Canada's strengths in the World Cup has been getting an early lead and keeping it. Over its first three games, it has led for 161:38 out of 180 total minutes and trailed for 1:29. Team Canada scored in the first 10 minutes off all three games and outscored its opponents 8-1 in the first periods.

In contrast, Team Russia has yet to score a first-period goal.

"The start at the beginning is always very effective for them and we need to be prepared for this," Vitolinsh said.

Video: Best of Ref Cam: Finland vs. Russia


Remembering Buffalo 

Team Russia includes five players who played against Canada in the gold medal game of the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo: defensemen Nikita Zaitsev and Dmitry Orlov and forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov, Artemi Panarin and Tarasenko. Russia trailed 3-0 in the third period before rallying for a stunning 5-3 victory.

"Maybe we were lucky," Zaitsev said. "I don't know. Maybe we were lucky, so it will help us in this tournament."


Optional day

After defeating Team Finland on Thursday, Team Russia held an optional practice Friday with 10 players participating. The group that skated included forwards Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov, Nikolay Kulemin and Namestnikov, defensemen Dmitry Kulikov, Nikita Nesterov and Zaitsev, and goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

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