Alex Ovechkin

Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin lead Russia Olympic hockey roster

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The last two NHL MVPs will be charged with leading Russia to the host nation’s most coveted medal at the Sochi Olympics.

Forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were the biggest stars on the Russian Olympic men’s hockey roster announced Tuesday.

Russia has never won an Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey. The Soviet Union/Unified Team won every Olympic title from 1964 through 1992 except for 1980.

Ovechkin and Malkin were on the 2006 and 2010 teams that finished fourth and sixth, respectively.

Olympic hockey rosters: U.S. | Canada | Russia | Sweden | Finland | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Switzerland | Latvia | Norway | Austria | Slovenia

Russia will play the U.S. in a group-stage game on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 a.m. live on NBCSN. Slovakia and Slovenia are also in the group. All 12 teams over three groups will advance to the playoffs, but the top four teams overall receive byes into quarterfinals.

Russia is expected to start the Colorado Avalanche’s Semyon Varlamov in goal, despite his off-the-ice issues. He’s been among the top 10 or 15 goalies in the NHL this season.

Other notables include multiple-time NHL All-Star forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, who is now in the KHL.

Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, 39, did not make the team in a bid for a fifth Olympics. Neither did Carolina Hurricanes star Alexander Semin

KHL forward Viktor Tikhonov is the grandson of the coach of the 1980 Soviet Union Olympic hockey team that lost to the U.S.

Here’s Russia’s full roster:

Goalies
Sergei Bobrovsky — Columbus Blue Jackets
Semyon Varlamov — Colorado Avalanche
Alexander Eremenko

Defensemen
Anton Belov — Edmonton Oilers
Alexei Emelin — Montreal Canadiens
Andrei Markov — Montreal Canadiens
Nikita Nikitin — Columbus Blue Jackets
Fedor Tyutin — Columbus Blue Jackets
Slava Voynov — Los Angeles Kings
Yevgeny Medvedev
Ilya Nikulin

Forwards
Artem Anisimov — Columbus Blue Jackets
Pavel Datsyuk — Detroit Red Wings
Nikolai Kulemin — Toronto Maple Leafs
Evgeni Malkin — Pittsburgh Penguins
Valeri Nichushkin — Dallas Stars
Alex Ovechkin — Washington Capitals
Vladimir Tarasenko — St. Louis Blues
Ilya Kovalchuk — former NHL player
Alexander Radulov — former Nashville Predators player
Viktor Tikhonov — former Phoenix Coyotes player
Denis Kokarev
Alexander Popov
Sergei Soin
Alexei Tereshchenko

No NHL players means more mistakes and goals at Olympics

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Hockey is a game of mistakes and it’s on display in fine form at the Olympics.

It doesn’t look beautiful, of course, with players all outside the NHL turning the puck over for point-blank scoring chances or leaving opponents wide open in front. The talent level is lower, so the risk factors and the entertainment level are up. Goaltenders have to be on their toes for unexpected, game-saving stops even more than usual.

NBCOlymipcs.com: Olympics give goalies chance to paint countries on masks 

“It’s a short tournament: A few mistakes can decide your fate,” Finland goaltender Karri Ramo said Saturday. “You try to create more than carry it out of the zone, so obviously teams are trying to keep the puck and create scoring chances, so those mistakes happen. You’re not going to win if you play safe.”

There’s not a whole lot of safe, low-risk play so far, and scoring has increased as a result. After each team played twice, games were averaging 5.1 goals, up from 4.7 in Sochi with NHL players on the rosters.

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Ligety exits quietly, Hirscher brilliant again

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Marcel Hirscher, the Austrian ski god, is finally having his moment. King of the World Cup tour for the past seven seasons, on Sunday Hirscher won his second Olympic gold, in the giant slalom.

Hirscher had won a grand total of no Olympic medals, nada, zip, zero in two prior Games. Now he might — could, should — win three here at PyeongChang. The slalom, another Hirscher specialty, is due to be run Thursday.

To watch Hirscher ski is to watch one of the great athletes of our — or any — time. Like being courtside in Chicago to see Michael Jordan back in the day. At Wimbledon for a Roger Federer volley. At the Water Cube in Beijing in 2008 when Michael Phelps was swimming the butterfly.

In Sunday’s race, Kristoffersen finished second, 1.27 seconds back of Hirscher. Pinturault finished third, 1.31 behind.

American racer Ted Ligety used to own this event: the Sochi 2014 giant slalom gold medalist, he was world champion in 2011, 2013 and 2015. Pinturault took Sochi 2014 bronze.

Considering his relatively low slalom ranking and the pounding that slalom demands, Sunday’s GS was — just like that, that quickly, that quietly — likely the final race of Ligety’s outstanding Olympic career.

“This is probably it for me at these Games,” he said after run two, adding that he is planning to head back to Europe, to race the remainder of the World Cup season.

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