Alex Ovechkin, Joel Ward, Mikhail Grabovski among nine Caps to play in world championships

May 8

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Nine players from the Capitals organization are taking part in the 2014 IIHF World Championships, which kicks off Friday in Minsk, Belarus, with four preliminary-round games.

Alex Ovechkin, who is appearing in the tournament for the 10th time in his career, has been named captain of the Russian squad. Defensemen Dmitry Orlov and winger Evgeny Kuznetsov also will play for Russia. (Earlier this week when he arrived for the tournament, Ovechkin received a loaf of bread that Russian Machine explains is a traditional welcome gift for important guests.)

Jason Chimera, Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer will represent Canada. Chimera, the oldest player on the team, will serve as alternate captain in his third world championship appearance. This is the first time Brouwer and Ward have taken part in the tournament, but both relished the opportunity to represent their country on the international stage.

“It’s my Olympics,” Ward said last month after the NHL regular season came to a close with the Capitals failing to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs. “It’s my only chance to wear a Canada jersey. It’s pretty cool to represent your country.”

Goaltender Philipp Grubauer will play for Germany, and his Hershey Bears teammate David Leggio will represent the United States.

epa04192371 A man passes by an IIHF Mascot in front of the multifunction complex 'Minsk-Arena', venue of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, in Minsk, Belarus, 05 May 2014. The 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship will take place from 09 to 25 May 2014 in Belarus. EPA/TATYANA ZENKOVICH
The Minsk Arena where the IIHF World Championships will take place in Belarus. (EPA/TATYANA ZENKOVICH)

But of all the players taking part in the world championships, none will have the same experience of Mikhail Grabovski, who will play for host Belarus. Grabovski grew up in Minsk and is one of only a handful of Belarusian players to reach the NHL, so playing in the tournament this year carries special significance for him with his entire extended family expected to attend.

“It’s my hometown. It’s going to be a disaster probably — it’s going to be crazy,” Grabovski said last month. “I’m excited to play. I play last time, long time ago for national team in my hometown, there was big crowd.”

The tournament gets underway Friday with these matchups:  Russia vs Switzerland, Belarus vs. the United States, Canada vs. France and Slovakia vs. the Czech Republic. Check out the full schedule here and complete rosters here.

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Tracee Hamilton · May 2

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