Malkin arrives, Ovi stays

Week starts with good news for Russian fans

19.05.2014
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Russia's Alexander Ovechkin will sit out at least one game due to his injury but will stay in Minsk. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

The mood around team Russia was lifted by good news about Ovechkin's injury and the arrival of Yevgeni Malkin in time for tomorrow's game against Belarus.

Monday morning brought good news for Russia's fans: Yevgeni Malkin arrived for his first training session, and Alexander Ovechkin's injury appeared less serious than first feared.

An MRI scan cleared the winger of any possibility of torn ligaments, although he was reportedly still feeling some pain from his right knee.

Team Russia GM Andrei Safronov told reporters at Minsk Arena: "Sasha [Ovechkin] will definitely stay with the team. Even if he couldn't play he'd still be here. He's not just a part of this team, he's a leader.

"He's OK at the moment. There's some pain, but he's working with the doctors."

He also hinted that, although the final decision on the captain's availability would be made by the medical team, Oveckhin himself was determined to play.

"Knowing Sasha if there's even a five percent chance he can play, he'll want to be out there."

Russia's star winger was hurt in the third period after an open-ice hip check by Germany's Marcus Kink. No penalty was called on the play. The brunt of the collision appeared to be taken by Ovechkin's right knee, after which the Russian captain flipped in the air and fell hard on the ice. Ovechkin was helped off the ice and taken into the dressing room, seemingly unable to put weight on his right leg. He was later driven to a local hospital for further evaluation, but returned to the team hotel shortly after midnight.

Initial fears that Ovechkin had sustained cruciate ligament damage proved unfounded, and while the Washington Capitals star is unlikely to feature against Belarus, it is still possible that he and Malkin will both suit up for the team in the later stages of the competition.

Malkin himself, arriving after half a day of travelling across the Atlantic, took part in a light training session. He was the last player to leave the ice and was greeted by a scrum of journalists eager to hear his thoughts about the Russian national team and its prospects.

And he was at pains to play down reports that he might take over the team captaincy from the injured Ovechkin.

"I haven't even thought about that," he said. "First, I'm sure Sanya [Ovechkin] will make a full recovery and it's not worth changing things just for one game. Also, I've only just got here and I wouldn't like to take over from the other leaders in this team like Danis Zaripov. I don't think much will change - everything's going great."

Despite the disappointment of a play-off defeat for Pittsburgh, Malkin didn't find it difficult to join up with his country in Belarus and confirmed his addition to the roster on Monday morning.

"Right after the play-offs I was feeling very down, but the next day I already felt better. When Oleg Znarok called I was delighted to be invited to the team," he said.

"It's especially good to be coming back to Minsk. It feels like a home town for me after we won the U18 World Championship here in 2004. I've got some really fond memories of this city."

With his Pittsburgh duties keeping him occupied during the early stages of the World Championship, Malkin admitted he hadn't been able to watch all of Russia's games - but he's enjoyed what he has seen so far.

"I was trying to follow the games and the guys have been playing great," he said. "Everyone's playing for each other even though we've had a lot of injuries. They really welcomed me here today, we had a good chat and came along for training. There's a great atmosphere in the team."

It's still early days for Malkin, and as yet he says he doesn't know who his line-mates will be. On Monday he teamed up with Vadim Shipachyov in training, but the third player was Ilya Zubov, who is not registered for this competition.

But he's hopeful of getting into the action on Tuesday against Belarus in what promises to be a sell-out Minsk Arena.

"Of course I'd like to play in a game like that and in front of a crowd like that," he said. "I've come here to help the team and I'll give it everything I've got. I hope I can show my best hockey here."

SLAVA MALAMUD, ANDY POTTS

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