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Kovalchuk leads Russian world championship roster

Tuesday, 04.30.2013 / 2:02 PM NHL.com

The defending world champions will have a number of familiar faces returning to their squad in 2013, but they'll also be adding one of hockey's biggest names.

According to RIA Novosti, Ilya Kovalchuk of the New Jersey Devils has been named to Russia's preliminary roster for the 2013 IIHF World Championship, which begins May 3 in Helsinki, Finland and Stockholm, Sweden.

Kovalchuk will be the biggest name on a roster that currently features 12 players from the 2012 team that won gold with a 6-2 win in the championship game against Slovakia. NHL superstars Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk -- who helped lead Russia to championship gold last year -- won't be back on the national team this time, unless their teams lose in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs and they decide to join mid-tournament.

Returnees include goaltender Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals prospect Evgeni Kuznetsov, and longtime Avangard Omsk forward Alexander Popov.

Kovalchuk and Varlamov are among the few NHL players on a preliminary roster made up primarily of players from the Kontinental Hockey League. Other NHL players on the Russian roster include Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers, Andrei Loktionov of the New Jersey Devils, Artem Anisimov and Fedor Trytin of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Kovalchuk and Bryzgalov played together on the 2009 squad that also won world championship gold. Last year's squad cruised to the world title, posting a plus-30 goal differential in 10 tournament games. Russia has won three of the past five World Championship tournaments and finished second to the Czech Republic in 2010.

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