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).
Apr 18, 2015, 9:51 AM EDT
Tampa Bay looks to avoid a sixth straight postseason loss.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:36 AM EDT
Another rough go for Crow.
Apr 18, 2015, 1:15 AM EDT
Crazy finish at Rogers Arena.
Apr 18, 2015, 12:59 AM EDT
Series now even at one.
Apr 18, 2015, 12:31 AM EDT
Talk about taking the game out of the officials’ hands.
Apr 17, 2015, 11:34 PM EDT
In Las Vegas.
Apr 17, 2015, 11:21 PM EDT
All the breaks seem to be going Chicago’s way.
Apr 17, 2015, 11:19 PM EDT
Second key player Nashville’s lost in as many games.
Apr 17, 2015, 10:52 PM EDT
Not a great start to the playoffs for Corey Crawford.
Apr 17, 2015, 10:46 PM EDT
Johnny Boychuk admits Isles let one slip away.
Apr 17, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT
Ottawa will need magic at home.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:53 PM EDT
Quite a comeback win for Washington.
Apr 17, 2015, 9:25 PM EDT
He blew the Islanders’ minds on this one.
Apr 17, 2015, 8:37 PM EDT
Updated with P.K. Subban’s booming goal.
Apr 17, 2015, 8:02 PM EDT
Awesome countered by awesomeness.
Apr 17, 2015, 7:02 PM EDT
He seemed tentative in warm-ups …
Apr 17, 2015, 6:39 PM EDT
Apr 17, 2015, 6:28 PM EDT
No pressure, kid.
Apr 17, 2015, 5:55 PM EDT
Game 2’s galore.
Apr 17, 2015, 5:07 PM EDT
“It seems when we lose a game everyone’s really focused to get back on the winning track.”
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