(This is the first in a series of OttawaSenators.com articles focusing on Sens players taking part in the men's hockey tournament at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics).
|Senators defenceman Anton Volchenkov is looking forward to his second Olympic experience in Vancouver, where his Russian team will be among the favourites to win men's hockey gold (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Tonight, Anton Volchenkov will see him as the enemy.
But soon enough, the Ottawa Senators defenceman figures to have a very different opinion about Washington Capitals sniper Alex Ovechkin. They'll be brothers in arms starting Tuesday, when Russia faces off against Latvia in its first men's hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
"That's the game," Volchenkov said in explaining why he'll do his level best to shut down the explosive Ovechkin when their teams meet at Scotiabank Place tonight. "He's a very good player. The Olympics are in four days but now, it's still the schedule in the NHL."
Loyalties even have to change among his Senators teammates. For two weeks, he'll battle Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson
(Sweden), forwards Jarkko Ruutu (Finland) and Milan Michalek
(Czech Republic), and defenceman Filip Kuba
(Czech) for the gold in what should be a highly-charged Olympic competition in Vancouver.
"There are no friends during the game," said Volchenkov. "We're friends now in Ottawa but after four days, we've got the Olympics and we'll have (new) friends."
Russia, the two-time defending world champions, is considered a favourite for the gold along with Canada and Sweden, which claimed top honours at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics in Italy. Volchenkov likes his team's chances and is happy to have the likes of Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Ilya Kovalchuk (New Jersey Devils) on his side.
"Those guys are very tough to play against in the NHL," he said. "Looking at (our) team, we have good forwards, good defence and good goaltending, too. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.
"It's huge. The Olympics only happen once every four years, so it's very exciting. Playing in Canada and playing in Vancouver ... it's hockey country. It will be very exciting to play in Vancouver, too." - Anton Volchenkov
"Canada has a very strong team and Sweden, too. Every team is strong and has good forwards, so it will be tough to play against (all of) them."
Volchenkov made his Olympic debut in Turin, where Russia lost 3-0 to the Czechs in the bronze-medal game and finished fourth.
"This was my first Olympics and I was a little bit nervous," he said in recalling the experience in Italy. "It was very exciting to play but at the same time, it was tough. Now I'm ready to go to my second Olympics and I'm sure that it will be better for me."
That might also sum up his thoughts about the Olympic tournament being played in Canada, his hockey home for the last seven seasons.
"It's huge," said the 27-year-old native of Moscow. "The Olympics only happen once every four years, so it's very exciting. Playing in Canada and playing in Vancouver ... it's hockey country. It will be very exciting to play in Vancouver, too."Senators pay tribute to Olympians tonight
Prior to tonight's Senators-Capitals game at Scotiabank Place, all the players on both teams headed to Vancouver will get a special Olympic sendoff during a pre-game ceremony.
Among the players being recognized are Alfredsson, Michalek, Ruutu, Volchenkov and Kuba of the Senators, and the Capitals' Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Semyon Varlamov (all of Russia), Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) and Tomas Fleischmann (Czech Republic).