Ovechkin-led Russian hockey team looks for redemption at world championships
(AP) - Washington Capitals wing Alex Ovechkin and Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will lead Russia in the world ice hockey championship starting in Minsk, Belarus, on Friday.
Just seven players, including captain Ovechkin, have survived from the squad that lost to Finland in the Sochi Olympic quarterfinals. One notable absentee was former New Jersey Devils wing Ilya Kovalchuk, now playing for SKA St. Petersburg, who was injured.
Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Anton Khudobin was on track to play at his first worlds after a breakout NHL season saw him post a save percentage of .926, fifth best in the league.
Only NHL players whose teams have been eliminated from the playoffs were eligible for the squad announced on Tuesday by the Russian Hockey Federation, but more players can be added later on.
The worlds are the first major competition for new Russia coach Oleg Znarok. He has been tasked with reviving the team after it failed to win a medal at Sochi. Russia is to play Switzerland, Finland, the United States, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Germany and Belarus in the group stage.
The squad includes 26 names, one more than the maximum allowed by the International Ice Hockey Federation for the championship. Of the 26, eight play in the NHL, with the remaining 16 all drawn from the Kontinental Hockey League. That included defenseman Anton Belov, who left the Edmonton Oilers for Russian team SKA.
Among the other NHL players named were Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov and wing Evgeny Kuznetsov, who at 21 was the youngest on the team.