Datsyuk on the ice
Datsyuk on the ice
Russia's captain trains for the first time
Russia held its breath on Tuesday morning as captain Pavel Datsyuk stepped onto the Olympic ice for the first time.
The Detroit Red Wings centre faces a race to be fully fit ahead of Thursday's opener against Slovenia after missing 14 games in the NHL.
He returned to competitive action with the Wings right before flying to Sochi, but home fans faced an anxious wait to see if he had fully shaken off the effects of a suspected knee injury.
And the news was good after his first training session at the Bolshoy Ice Dome: "Everything's great," he told journalists. "I will play in the first game."
Datsyuk's determination is perhaps not surprising. While it's well-known that Russia has been eagerly awaiting these Games since Sochi was awarded the Olympics in 2007, Datsyuk is close to realising a life-long dream.
"I've not just been thinking about these Games for six or seven years - I've been thinking about it all my life," he said. "It's a good feeling to be captain, to come home and play in the Olympics in front of your own fans. It's unbelievable."
After missing the team's first training session with its NHL stars on Monday evening, some in Russia feared that the talismanic captain may not be able to lead his team in its opening game. Even reassurances from Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and various members of the Russian roster did not fully calm the anxiety.
But Datsyuk himself insisted everything was fine. "I can do everything. The only thing I can't do is talk to the media too much - it takes too much of my energy."Continue reading
Speaking to the Russian media, Datsyuk added: "I'm fully recovered. If I'm going out on the ice, it means I'm 100 per cent ready.
"Everything is great. There's a good atmosphere both in the locker room and on the ice. We're all in good spirits, and the stadium is beautiful.
"We're not here to talk about why I didn't train yesterday, the important thing is that I skated today."
In Tuesday's session Datsyuk centered a line with Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov, two of the leading lights of the KHL. That pair also teamed up for Russia during the team's first games in Sochi, as part of December's disappointing First Channel Cup showing. But similarities with that Eurotour event, in which Russian finished third behind the Czechs and the Finns, don't bother Datsyuk. "Is is a different tournament. This is already another level."
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