GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — The Russians are here, and they look every bit like the gold-medal favorites everyone thinks they are.
They’re stocked with NHL talent from Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Slava Voynov to Kontinental Hockey League star Nikita Gusev and are fresh off an 8-1 drubbing of host South Korea in exhibition play. Asked to describe the Russian team, Nikita Nesterov said it is a “red machine.”
“We’ll just play well and play Russian hockey,” Nesterov said Sunday as the Russians arrived at Gangneung Hockey Centre. “A lot of guys played (in the) NHL. It’s a good team, younger team. We’ll see what’s going on here.”
What’s expected to go on is for the Russian team in the nondescript “Olympic Athletes from Russia” red and white uniforms to roll over its competition to win the men’s hockey tournament. No other country has the high-end skill that Russia boasts, which has made it the team to beat.