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 29, 2014, 12:01 PM EDT
IIHF Disciplinary Board levies punishment for “very forceful check.”
Jul 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Was traded from Toronto on July 1.
Jul 29, 2014, 11:04 AM EDT
New Caps coach wants “people who are really good at distributing the puck and making things happen from the middle of the ice.”
Jul 29, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT
Had 11 goals and seven assists in 53 games last season.
Jul 29, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT
Expected to be healthy for training camp.
Jul 29, 2014, 9:35 AM EDT
Can become an unrestricted free agent next summer now.
Jul 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
They won the Stanley Cup together in Tampa Bay.
Jul 29, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Tuesday’s collection of links.
Jul 28, 2014, 11:05 PM EDT
Both were part of Dallas’ 1999 championship.
Jul 28, 2014, 10:16 PM EDT
He was recently hired by the team to serve as an assistant general manager.
Jul 28, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
That won’t be easy given the Bruins’ current logjam.
Jul 28, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
He might still end up playing in Russia.
Jul 28, 2014, 6:50 PM EDT
He attempted to make the transition to North America in 2013-14.
Jul 28, 2014, 5:42 PM EDT
The two sides are unlikely to agree to terms quickly though.
Jul 28, 2014, 4:37 PM EDT
Yashin and Bure are among the players that will compete against Los Angeles.
Jul 28, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
“I was told there’s a definite opportunity.”
Jul 28, 2014, 2:27 PM EDT
Former Anaheim forward posted a career high in points last year.
Jul 28, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT
With Riley Sheahan also signed, the only RFA left is Danny DeKeyser.
Jul 28, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
He’s appeared in over 150 NHL games with Chicago, Dallas and Minnesota.
Jul 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Veteran goalie is high on his young teammates.
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