Washington Capitals star winger Alex Ovechkin appears to have avoided significant harm from a violent hip-check he absorbed Sunday in a preliminary-round game at the IIHF World Championships, according to comments made by Russian hockey officials in Belarus.
Ovechkin’s right knee is swollen but an MRI showed no torn ligaments, according to Slava Malamud of Sport Express, who is in Minsk for the tournament. Vladislav Tretiak, president of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, told Malamud that the “diagnosis didn’t reveal a serious ligament damage. The worst is avoided.”
That’s encouraging news for the Capitals, who have always permitted Ovechkin to represent Russia in the world championships. Sunday’s scare offered the reminder that each time he does his health – and the fate of the Capitals – is potentially at risk.
Even if, as reported, Ovechkin avoided a tear, a knee injury can still take time to heal. In the 2013 world championships, Carolina’s Eric Staal suffered a third-degree sprain of his MCL after a knee-on-knee hit from Alexander Edler. Staal didn’t need surgery but went through a three-month rehab to be ready for training camp.
Ovechkin, 28, is walking on his own and while he is expected to miss Russia’s final preliminary game on Tuesday, Russian national team officials wouldn’t rule him out for the rest of the tournament.
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.”
Ovechkin was injured in the third period Sunday of Russia’s 3-0 win over Germany when Marcus Kink delivered an open-ice hip-check that sent the winger flying in the air. Unable to stand after the collision, Ovechkin needed to be helped off the ice and to the dressing room before he was taken to a local hospital.
The Capitals’ medical staff is working with the Russian national team to monitor Ovechkin’s status.