KHLer Popov takes Semin’s spot on Ovechkin, Malkin line

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After netting just two goals in regulation over their last two contests, it looks like the Russians will be trying out some new combinations when they play Norway on Tuesday.

Alexander Semin was knocked off the top line during Monday’s practice, allowing Alexander Popov to skate alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin instead, according to Puck Daddy and TSN’s Dmitry Chesnokov.

Popov, 33, has spent his entire career playing in Russia. He had 14 goals and 32 points in 46 games with the KHL’s Omsk Avangard in 2013-14.

The line of Semin, Ovechkin, and Malkin certainly looked dangerous on paper, but they didn’t live up to expectations for very long. The trio hasn’t scored since combining for two goals in the first four minutes of Russia’s tournament opener against Slovenia.

Semin was knocked off of the top-six entirely as he skated with Artem Anisimov and Nikolai Kulemin.

Naturally these lines have to be taken with a grain of salt, not just because they were used during an off-day practice, but also because Ilya Kovalchuk is dealing with an ailment. Russia head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said Kovalchuk will play on Tuesday, but the 30-year-old missed Monday’s skate and Viktor Tikhonov consequently kept his spot warm. If Kovalchuk can’t play tomorrow, then Bilyaletdinov might significantly restructure his lines rather than let Tikhonov make his Olympic debut on the second unit.