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Datsyuk practices, will play for Russia in opener

by Shawn P. Roarke

SOCHI -- Russia captain Pavel Datsyuk practiced Tuesday morning at the Bolshoy Ice Dome and declared himself ready for action in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

"Everything is fine," Datsyuk said at Pushkin Hall in the Main Press Center. "My injury doesn’t bother me at all. I'm fully [acclimated]. We are all in the same condition."

The center missed 14 consecutive games for the Detroit Red Wings with a lower-body injury before returning to play the final two before the Olympic break. He played less than 15 minutes in each game.

He did not practice with Russia on Monday afternoon. The team begins play Thursday against Slovenia (7:30 a.m. ET, MSNBC, CBC).

The Tuesday practice session was more structured than the Monday practice, which took place shortly after the NHL-based Russian players arrived on overnight flights from the United States.

Datsyuk said he will not be limited and had no interest in missing any part of these games. He is the captain of the Russian team, an incredible honor for a very proud athlete.

"All my life," was all he said when asked how long he had waited for the opportunity.

"It's a good feeling [to be captain]," he continued. "Now, to come back and play in a home Olympics in front of your fans; it's an unbelievable feeling."

Monday, Datsyuk’s NHL coach, Mike Babcock, and general manager, Ken Holland, voiced concerns about the health of their center. Holland is part of the Canada Olympic team management group and Babcock is coach.

"I understand it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Holland said. "In his hockey lifetime the Olympics will never be in Russia [again], he's the captain. He's probably been preparing for this two-week tournament five, six years ago when it was announced that it was coming to Russia. I'm sure if he couldn't play, he won't play. Is he a hundred percent? Probably not, but there's probably other players in this tournament that aren't a hundred percent as well.

"I'm hoping, obviously, when we come out of the tournament that he's ready to go for us. You're trusting they know their bodies, he knows the challenges both in this tournament and when he gets back to Detroit."

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