Three days after injuring his right leg at the IIHF World Championships, Alex Ovechkin was back on the ice practicing with the Russian national team Wednesday fueling speculation that the star winger could be back in Russia’s lineup as early as its quarterfinal game against France on Thursday.
Ovechkin, 28, is believed to have sprained his right MCL when he was hip checked by Germany’s Marcus Kink in a preliminary round game Sunday. The Capitals declined to offer specific details of Ovechkin’s injury but said in a statement that the organization is “confident” the winger will be healthy and ready for the start of training camp.
But while multiple reports out of Belarus, where the tournament is taking place, indicated that concern was focused on Ovechkin’s knee – he underwent an MRI on his right knee after the hit, was provided with a customized knee brace and Russian national officials confirmed that he did not suffer any torn ligaments in his knee — the star winger said Wednesday his knee is not injured.
“I am not wearing any brace,” Ovechkin told reporters in Belarus via Russian Machine. “They brought it to me, but so far I have not tried the magical brace. Let me repeat, it’s not my knee, but different organs and muscles. I skated today, I have some pain, but of course, it is better than it was the first day.”
Ovechkin was cryptic when asked if he would play against France Thursday, but even if he sits out that contest it certainly seems as though he intends to suit up for Russia again before the world championships conclude. Given Russia’s disappointing exit from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, finishing without a medal for the third consecutive games, there is pressure for the national team to perform well at the world championships even if the rest of the field isn’t sporting top-tier rosters like they do for the Olympics. Russia currently leads the tournament with a 7-0 record through the preliminary round.
In a news release earlier this week the Capitals stated that Ovechkin’s injury “requires rest.” It appears that may wait until after the World Championships, though.