Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin won’t represent Russia at the World Championships this summer because of a lower-body injury, the Russian Hockey Federation announced on Thursday. Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenseman Dmitry Orlov will go to France to play for Russia.
After Russia’s 3-0 win over Denmark on Thursday, Coach Oleg Znarok said Ovechkin was playing through knee and hamstring injuries during the Capitals’ playoff run.
“Russia’s coaches contacted three Washington players, with all of them agreeing to travel to the tournament,” the Russian Hockey Federation said in its release. “However, during a conversation with coaches, Alexander Ovechkin stated that he is ready to join the team immediately as he always does, but doesn’t want to let the team down because he finished the NHL playoffs on pain numbing injections.”
Washington’s breakdown day is expected to be Friday, where more details about Ovechkin’s injury could be released. In a first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ovechkin was flipped over on a low hip check by Nazem Kadri, and he had to be helped off the ice to the locker room, and he didn’t put any weight on his left leg. Ovechkin returned to that game after the first intermission and didn’t miss any time in the postseason, but it’s possible he was hurt on that play.
Ovechkin is hurt by a hit from Kadri pic.twitter.com/Ct2XJIdTNc
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 21, 2017
That could also explain Ovechkin’s underwhelming performance in the second round of the playoffs, when he criticized himself after a Game 4 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Capitals Coach Barry Trotz then put him in a third-line role, and in Wednesday’s Game 7, he was on the ice for both of Pittsburgh’s goals and finished seventh in ice time among Washington’s forwards.
Ovechkin represented Russia at the world championships 12 times, though a trip there this summer would have made for an especially long season. He captained Team Russia at the World Cup of Hockey before training camp and then played every regular-season game before 13 playoff contests.
In 82 games, he scored 33 goals and 36 assists, a two-point drop in point production from the year before, while he scored 17 fewer goals. In the postseason, he had five goals and three assists in 13 games.
Kuznetsov and Orlov also represented Russia at the World Cup before the season and then played in every game for Washington. Both are also pending restricted free agents this summer. They won’t be the only ones headed to France for the international tournament. According to Swedish reporter Jonatan Lindquist, center Nicklas Backstrom will be joining Team Sweden.
Hörni, fick precis höra att Nicklas Bäckström också kommer åka på VM.
Inte illa det.
— Jonatan Lindquist (@Lindquistik) May 11, 2017
Fellow Swede Andre Burakovsky could be hesitant because he doesn’t have a contract for next season, a pending restricted free agent the Capitals are expected to re-sign, and Marcus Johansson told Swedish reporter Per Bjurman that he has a broken finger, ruling him out.
Goaltender Philipp Grubauer could be asked to represent Germany, and center Lars Eller might join Denmark.