SOCHI, Russia — With roughly two-thirds of its roster playing abroad in the NHL and the rest in the domestic Kontinental Hockey League, the Team Russia hockey team will arrive in Sochi in two waves, making for some potentially awkward preparations for the 2014 Winter Games.
The first to arrive, on Saturday, will be the KHL contingent of nine players, headed by former Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils star Ilya Kovalchuk. These nine players, along with some non-roster reinforcements, will scrimmage Sunday against Switzerland, according to Mikhail Zakharov, media manager for the Russian national team, as they await their teammates. The KHL began its Olympics break following Thursday night’s games, while the NHL schedule goes through Saturday.
Russia’s 16 NHL Olympians, including Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, will begin arriving Monday morning on four charter flights organized by the NHL Players Association to transport the league’s Olympians to Sochi. Ovechkin will arrive on a roll; he scored his 40th goal Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets. The Olympic men’s hockey tournament, which will be one of the focal points of the Sochi Games, begins on Wednesday, with Russia playing its first game on Thursday against Slovenia.
According to Zakharov, the Russians have been monitoring the condition of star center Pavel Datsyuk, who suited up Thursday night for the Detroit Red Wings after missing the previous 13 games with an unspecified lower-body injury.
“We don’t know much more than we read in the newspapers,” Zakharov said of Datsyuk’s availability during the Sochi Games. “But our doctors have remained in touch with him.”