Tretiak: Russia yet to choose between Bobrovsky, Varlamov


On the same day Russia had its first practice in Sochi, the president of the Russian Hockey Federation — and one of the country’s greatest netminders ever — said the team still needs to decide on a starting goalie.

“The most important thing for us is to take a good goalie,” Vladislav Tretiak said, per the Olympic News Service. “We now have two leading ones and we need to choose which one will start. It’s good that we have this choice.”

Russia’s No. 1 gig will either go to Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky or Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov. At Monday’s skate, the Russians weren’t tipping their collective hand as to who it would be — PHT’s man on the ground, Jason Brough, said there were no hints or suggestions leaning either way — and that’s not surprising, given both have been equally good in their respective NHL campaigns thus far.

Bobrovsky, the reigning Vezina winner, rebounded from a mid-season groin injury to compile tremendous numbers over the last two months, posting a .926 save percentage in 10 January games (with one shutout), then upping that to a .942 save percentage over four games in February.

Varlamov, who sits tied for third in the NHL in wins (28), has done very well lately in the face of some huge shot totals. He stopped 46 of 48 in a mid-January win over Chicago, 41 of 44 against Dallas in a victory on Jan. 27, and 34 of 32 in a loss to Philly right before the break — a game in which he was named the third star.

In terms of international experience, Varlamov is decidedly out in front. He represented Russia at a pair of World Junior tournaments (2006 and ’07) and a pair of World Championships, including the ’12 edition in Helsinki in which he backstopped his country to gold.

Bobrovsky, meanwhile, hasn’t suited up internationally since the 2008 World Juniors, when he won bronze for Russia. On Monday, the Columbus ‘tender said he hadn’t been informed who’s going to start when Russia opens the tournament against Slovenia in two days, and explained he’s just trying to focus on the basics.

“I try to keep it simple,” he said. “My job is to stop the puck, and I try to focus on that.”

Niemi blanks Pens, notches two assists in Stars debut

Antti Niemi, Sidney Crosby, Patric Hornqvist

DALLAS (AP) — Antti Niemi recorded his 33rd career shutout and assisted on two goals in his Dallas debut, as the Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0 on Thursday night in the season opener for both.

Ales Hemsky had a power-play goal and an assist.

Rookie Matthias Janmark scored on his first shot on his first shift in an NHL game to make it 1-0. The Stars acquired Niemi and Janmark in trades earlier this year.

Dallas scored on two of five power plays. Jamie Benn, the NHL’s leading scorer last season, had a power-play goal in the third period.

Niemi made 37 saves to improve his career record against the Penguins to 5-1-1. He withstood a flurry in the final minute after Pittsburgh pulled goalie Marc-Andre Fleury for an extra skater.

Fleury had 21 saves.

The Stars are 4-0-1 in their last five home games against Pittsburgh, and have won three in a row overall.

Janmark skated down the slot, took a pass from Hemsky and shot between Fleury’s legs at 1:39 of the first.

The Penguins dominated the latter half of the period, but couldn’t score. Niemi’s best stop was a reaching glove save of Rod Scuderi’s drive from the blue line with less than 3 minutes remaining. Pittsburgh outshot the Stars 10-4 in the first.

Hemsky scored at 5:42 of the second on Dallas’ first power play. His shot from the top of the right faceoff circle went in over Fleury’s right shoulder.

The Penguins again had an advantage in shots, 13-11. Pittsburgh had chances in close, but Niemi turned those away. Midway through the second, John Klingberg cleared away a loose puck from in front of the net.

Seven seconds into the Stars’ fourth power play of the third period, Jamie Benn tipped in Jason Spezza‘s shot from the right point.

NOTES: Dallas acquired Janmark as part of a March trade that sent Erik Cole to Detroit. The rookie had been playing in the Swedish Hockey League. . San Jose traded Niemi’s rights to the Stars in June for a seventh-round draft pick. Also making their Dallas debuts were LW Patrick Sharp and D Johnny Oduya, teammates with Chicago’s Stanley Cup champions last season. . In his first game for the Penguins, Phil Kessel played in his 447th straight game. . Pittsburgh was 0 for 3 on the power play.

Fabbri’s first spoils McDavid’s debut as Blues down Oilers

Robby Fabbri, Justin Schultz
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Rookie Robby Fabbri scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period to help the St. Louis Blues beat Edmonton 3-1 Thursday night, spoiling Oilers rookie Connor McDavid‘s NHL debut.

Vladimir Tarasenko had the tying goal for the Blues near the midpoint of the second period, and Troy Brouwer added an empty-netter with 18 seconds remaining in the third. Brian Elliott finished with 23 saves.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored in the first period for Edmonton and Cam Talbot had 28 saves.

McDavid, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, took 22 shifts, played 18:07 and was on the ice for Brouwer’s goal. He had two shots on goal, and struggled on faceoffs – winning only three of 13.

Fabbri, a 19-year-old forward — and McDavid’s childhood friend — was also playing in his first NHL game. The Blues’ first-round pick in 2014 was one of three rookies in the St. Louis lineup, joining defensemen Colton Parayko and Joel Edmundson.

Nugent-Hopkins gave the Oilers a 1-0 lead late in the first period with a fluke power-play goal. He lost a face-off but when Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo tried to clear the puck it bounced off Alexander Steen and past Brian Elliott. Nugent-Hopkins was credited with the unassisted power-play goal with 2:38 remaining in the period.

Tarasenko tied it a 9:10 of the second after getting loose on a breakaway with a stretch pass from Alex Pietrangelo and beating Talbot through his legs.

Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60 million extension in the offseason, was the last Blues player to score in his debut.

NOTES: McDavid and F Anton Slepyshev made their NHL debuts for the Oilers. … St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina dropped the ceremonial first puck. … The attendance was announced as standing room-only 19,327.