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Very little at stake for U.S. hockey

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TORINO, Italy — Satisfied with their goaltending and frustrated by a lack of scoring, the U.S. men's hockey team will probably stick with the same offensive plan and change goalies in today's round-robin finale.

Philadelphia's Robert Esche will start against Russia in a game that won't affect the Americans' seeding for the quarterfinals. Team USA (1-2-1) is virtually assured of earning the fourth and last qualifying position in Group B. It will be matched against Group A winner Finland on Wednesday afternoon.

Russia (3-1-0) can finish from first to third in the group. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov of San Jose is the hottest goalie in the tournament, giving up only one goal in three games.

New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro has played well in the last three U.S. games, a victory over Kazakhstan and 2-1 losses to Slovakia and Sweden.

Wednesday's quarterfinal will start only 21 hours after the beginning of tonight's game. But U.S. coach Peter Laviolette wouldn't say he was resting DiPietro to play Wednesday.

"We have three starting goaltenders," Laviolette said shortly after Esche told reporters that he would start. "It's an opportunity to see what he can do."

Esche has been the forgotten man among the American goalies. He missed six weeks, from mid-December to late January, because of a groin injury and returned for only eight games before the Olympic break. His NHL record is 15-6-3 with a 3.15 goals-against average. He ranks 23rd in the NHL goals against. Grahame is 13th, DiPietro 18th.

"I didn't expect it," said Esche, who dressed out for the first time on Sunday night. "It does mean a lot to me to play."

The Americans practiced Tuesday afternoon but not on power plays. They were , on which they went 0-for-5 against Sweden and are 4-for-25 overall.

Nor did the team specifically work on different line combinations after scoring only two goals in two games.

"Can we look at something else tomorrow night? Sure," Laviolette said.

"Maybe there's a combination that can get hot. But I think the team's gonna bust out with some goals.

"We're disappointed — irritated, I guess — by the results. Like, you go out and do the right thing and play the way you're supposed to play. And at the end, you don't get the cookie."