Feb 9, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT
SOCHI, Russia — Ilya Kovalchuk may have “retired” from the NHL to play in the KHL, but he doesn’t see the upcoming Olympic tournament as two leagues pitted against each other, and he doesn’t see it as a way for the fledgling, mostly-Russian league to prove its worth against the more established one in North America.
“It’s two great leagues. It doesn’t matter where anybody plays,” Kovalchuk said Sunday in Sochi, where he practiced with the KHL members of the Russian national squad. (The NHLers arrive Monday.)
“We’re here as a team, and nobody cares where you play. We’re here for a mission. I don’t want to show anybody anything. I just have to be myself and try to play my game.”
Kovalchuk’s game is offense. The 30-year-old winger has 16 goals and 24 assists this season for SKA Saint Petersburg, his 40 points ranking him first on the team and ninth in the league.
Not that North American hockey fans need to be told that Kovalchuk is a dangerous scorer; his 417 goals with the Thrashers and Devils were proof of that.
As for some of the other KHL players on the Russian roster, specifically the ones who’ve never played in the NHL? Well, Kovalchuk didn’t want to provide a scouting report for those who may not be familiar.
“They’ll see in a couple of days,” he said. “The Olympics are going to start, and I’m pretty sure they’ll find some names who they’re going to follow after the Olympics.”
But unlike some analysts have forecasted, Kovalchuk doesn’t believe the KHLers in the tournament will have a significant advantage over the NHLers when it comes to playing on the bigger international ice. By the time the games start to matter, he predicts everyone will have adjusted.
“It’s a little different game, the bigger ice, so you’ve got to skate more,” he said. “Physically, you’ve got to be better prepared than playing on a small rink, but we’ll see.”
Russia plays its first game Thursday versus Slovenia before a pair of tougher preliminary-round match-ups versus the United States (Saturday) and Slovakia (Sunday).
Jul 31, 2015, 10:22 PM EDT
He’s also a veteran of 616 career games.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
That’s close to the middle between his and Washington’s requests.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT
The decision surprised Arizona’s general manager.
Jul 31, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT
The defenseman spent the 2014-15 campaign in the Swiss League.
Jul 31, 2015, 5:36 PM EDT
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Jul 31, 2015, 4:11 PM EDT
Ray Shero’s restructure continues.
Jul 31, 2015, 2:46 PM EDT
There is a key deadline approaching though.
Jul 31, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT
Johnson won a gold medal in 1988, but it was taken away because of a positive steroids test.
Jul 31, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
There’s a $500 million expansion fee to consider.
Jul 31, 2015, 10:24 AM EDT
This will be a key season for him.
Jul 31, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Because once Voracek’s eight-year contract kicks in, they’ll be part of that list.
Jul 31, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Friday’s collection of links.
Jul 30, 2015, 10:27 PM EDT
Former NHL stars are among the list of likely candidates.
Jul 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Has Buffalo set itself up for an era of long playoff runs?
Jul 30, 2015, 7:52 PM EDT
The deal is reportedly worth $5.6 million.
Jul 30, 2015, 7:11 PM EDT
At one point he was listed as the top European skater in the 2015 draft.
Jul 30, 2015, 5:52 PM EDT
The Flyers also have forwards Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier locked up.
Jul 30, 2015, 4:22 PM EDT
The 37-year-old still wants to continue his career.
Jul 30, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Along with Yao Ming.
Jul 30, 2015, 2:01 PM EDT
“Nobody benefits from a short-term deal like this, in particular, our hockey department.”
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