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Ovi, Kovy, Malkin to lead high-powered Russia attack

Friday, 12.25.2009 / 8:54 AM / All-Access Vancouver

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

How's this for an Olympic nightmare?

Russia goes on the power play and over the boards jumps a forward line of Pavel Datsyuk centering Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, with Andrei Markov and Sergei Gonchar on the points. And 60 seconds later, a second unit comes out led by Sergei Fedorov, Alexander Semin and Ilya Kovalchuk.

Think some goalies are sweating?

Well, that could be a reality when the 2010 Olympics are held in Vancouver, as those are just some of the high-powered offensive superstars named to the team Russia will take in a quest to win their first Olympic gold since 1992.

Fourteen of the 23 players chosen by Russia coach Vyacheslav Bykov for the provisional roster currently play in the NHL, including three members of the Washington Capitals.

Besides Ovechkin and Semin, rookie goalie Semyon Varlamov also was named to the team. Varlamov currently is on injured reserve with a groin injury, but he's 12-1-2 in 16 games, with a 2.21 GAA.

Varlamov likely will be the third goalie, as a pair of veterans will compete for the starting assignment -- San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov and Phoenix's Ilya Bryzgalov. Nabokov started in goal in Turin in 2006, and helped Russia win gold at the 2008 World Championship. Bryzgalov also was on the team in 2006, and is having a brilliant season for the Coyotes -- he's third in the League with 21 wins and a 2.02 goals-against average, and is first with five shutouts

The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a pair of players on the team. Besides Malkin, Sergei Gonchar will anchor the defense in his fourth Olympics. Joining him will be Markov, who has been sensational since the Canadiens blueliner returned from surgery to repair a severed ankle tendon, with 3 goals in his first four games.

While Russia will have offense in strong supply, they'll also have more than a bit of toughness, especially on the blue line. Columbus' Fedor Tyutin and Ottawa's Anton Volchenkov likely will be counted on to go against other team's top forwards and make them pay for venturing too close to the Russia goal.

But all eyes will be on the cast of speedy, skilled forwards that have been assembled. When players relegated to the third and fourth lines include Atlanta's Maxim Afinogenov (34 points in 36 games), and Salavat Ufa teammates Alexander Radulov and Sergei Zinoviev (tied for second in KHL scoring, 42 points in 34 games), it's an embarrassment of riches.

Two surprising omissions are Ottawa forward Alexei Kovalev and Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin. Kovalev has just 20 points in 34 games with the Senators, but is a three-time Olympian and is very highly respected by Russian players. Khabibulin is another three-time Olympian, but he hasn't played since Nov. 16 with a back injury.

Also missing from the team is defensemen Sergei Zubov and forwards Nikita Filatov, Nikolai Zherdev, Alexei Yashin and Maxim Shusinsky, the leading scorer in the KHL.

Any or all of them could be added to the squad anytime before Feb. 15, when the final rosters must be submitted.