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South Korean Olympic hockey coach: My expectation is gold

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South Korea men’s hockey coach Jim Paek is, in a sense, ignoring the Olympic host nation’s long odds at the PyeongChang Winter Games.

“My expectation is gold, absolutely,” Paek, a two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins, said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “Why do we even play if we don’t prepare to win the gold? In order for us to be successful, we have to think and act like an elite team. Win or lose, I don’t have the crystal ball. But I know we’ve prepared extremely hard for the last three years.”

Paek, the first South Korean-born NHL player, was hired almost exactly three years ago to develop the men’s program into a respectable Olympic team.

Paek replaced a coach who guided South Korea at a low-tier 2014 World Championship tournament to an 0-5 record with a minus-20 goal differential.

This year, the South Koreans won four of five games in the same tournament with a mix of native Koreans and naturalized Canadians. Their top defenseman and goalie, both Canadian-born, had brief NHL stints.

They received promotion to the top-level world championship for the first time next year.

“We’ve earned [our way] into that elite level of hockey,” Paek said, according to Yonhap. “We understand that it’s a different world, but we’re going to try to make them chase us. I believe we can do that.”

Still, South Korea is the lowest-ranked nation in the 2018 Olympic tournament at 21st overall, six spots below the next lowest, Slovenia. They’re grouped in PyeongChang with Canada, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, three nations ranked in the top seven in the world.

“I hope Canada thinks [it can win handily] so we can slide in there and beat them,” Paek said with a smile, according to Yonhap.

The South Koreans should benefit from the NHL not participating in the Olympics for the first time since 1994. They will also learn from joining Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic in a pre-Olympic tournament in Russia in December.

“If we lose by 100 goals or whatever before the Olympics, that’s OK,” Paek said, according to Yonhap. “You have to fail in order to get better.”

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Evgeni Malkin hopes Penguins will let him go to Olympics

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Russian star Evgeni Malkin said he intends to go to the Olympics, should the Pittsburgh Penguins allow it, according to an Associated Press translation of a “Soviet Sport” report.

“There’s nothing good about this at all. We’re going to think, make calls, get advice, talk with other hockey guys,” Malkin said, according to the AP translation. “My opinion is that I want to go to the Olympics.”

Malkin, 30 and a three-time Olympian, hopes to defy the NHL’s stance of not participating in the Winter Games, but he’s not quite as adamant as countryman Alex Ovechkin.

Malkin hasn’t played since March 15 due to a shoulder injury and thus hasn’t spoken much (or at all) with U.S. media since the NHL’s announcement on Monday that it will not participate at the Winter Games.

Malkin has been the most prolific Russian point-scorer per game each of the last two seasons, though he has missed chunks of time due to injuries.

Other Russian stars are not as outspoken on the Olympic issue.

The St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko reportedly said he would think about the situation in the summer.

Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning reportedly said, “No thoughts about it. For me, I’m focusing on the playoffs right now.”

The agent for Chicago Blackhawks forward Artemi Panarin said his skater would be ready to go to the Olympics if it could be legally worked out, according to Russian media.

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MORE: Gary Bettman chimes in on Alex Ovechkin

Sidney Crosby still undecided about pushing for Olympic spot

Sidney Crosby
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Will Sidney Crosby angle for a spot on Canada’s Olympic team, defying the NHL’s decision not to participate?

The two-time gold medalist was asked Tuesday if he would go to the PyeongChang Winter Games if other individual NHL players were allowed.

“I haven’t even thought that far, to be honest,” Crosby said. “It’s a difficult situation to be in, there’s no doubt, but I know some guys have been vocal about going regardless, but I’m not sure if I’m thinking quite that far ahead yet. It’s something that just happened. It’s something you have to think about.”

Crosby hasn’t joined the stance of longtime Russian rival Alex Ovechkin, who has said he will play in the 2018 Olympics regardless of the NHL’s feelings.

“I’m definitely not going to declare that right now,” Crosby said in September, according to NHL.com. “Kind of wait and see what happens. But if [Ovechkin] feels that strongly about it, I don’t have a problem with that. If he wants to represent his country and be there that’s his choice.”

Crosby’s public view appears unchanged from last summer. Now that the NHL has announced it will end its streak of Olympic participation since 1998, Crosby is joining a chorus of players disappointed in the news.

“I really thought something was going to be able to get worked out,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case.”

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