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Ovechkin, Russian hockey team under pressure

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The younger Tikhonov is a California kid with no Russian accent whatsoever when he speaks English. But there’s no question where his hockey loyalty lies. He has refused to ever watch the "Miracle On Ice" movie about the 1980 USSR defeat, or even a replay of the game broadcast itself. Every summer, Tikahnov works out at the Sharks’ practice rink and has a running bet with a friend there.

The friend is a goalie. So the bet goes this way: If the goalie can ever stop Tikhanov on 10 straight penalty shots, Tikhanov will finally watch "Miracle On Ice." So far, Tikhanov is winning the bet. Remember that information if he is called upon to make a penalty shot in an Olympic overtime.

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On paper, Canada or Sweden should probably win the gold here. But the larger international ice surface could boost Russia’s chances. So should the home crowd. Putin will be watching from the stands on most nights. The emotion might help generate an upset Russian victory.

If that occurs, Ovechkin’s image won’t merely be plastered all over Sochi. The country might commission a mural of him in Red Square. And when the gold medal party starts, Ovechkin won’t have any trouble getting people to join, join.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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