Alex Ovechkin exposes corruption in Russian hockey during candid interview

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Alexovechsaycheese.jpgBelieve it or not, interview translations aren’t useful solely for generating arguments about plagiarism.

Take, for instance, Dmitry Chesnokov’s translation of a surprisingly candid Alex Ovechkin interview from sports.ru. While there is plenty of intriguing stuff about Ovechkin finding his shot (his father made him aim his shot at “a certain number of cans” before he could socialize with buddies) and how he feels about the playoffs, it’s the stuff about Russian hockey that could very well make waves.

I’ll start with the most eyebrow-raising fodder in which Ovechkin details the allegedly bribe-driven world of Russian hockey.

“When I was young, there were no people who came up and said: ‘Here’s the money for you, play my son, let him play and enjoy. And then we’ll see.’ This is the worst. It’s in the clubs, in national teams — it’s the same everywhere. And when I started playing for the national team, it was happening. Two, three people were there who “had a pull.” But now there are more of them. Unfortunately, in Russia money decides everything.”

In Russia money decides everything? Well, at least Ronald Reagan would be proud. (Too soon?)

Ovechkin also makes little doubt that, despite some considerable progress, the NHL is still the league of dreams rather than the KHL.

“Of course, to play in the NHL is a dream. You can go to any youth sports school and ask those who train there — everyone will say that they dream of the NHL. There cannot even be a talk about comparing the two leagues. The KHL right now is moving in the right direction, raising up a little, but there is no point to compare the leagues. Let them call me names, call me a traitor, but this is true.”

If these interviews are any indication, many European hockey players have a lot more to say that the language barrier will allow (or they just don’t want to provide “bulletin board” material, either). He might take a little heat for the comments back home, but kudos to Ovechkin for speaking his mind. It’s a great – and unfortunately rare – thing to see.

Rangers make changes after loss in Anaheim

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The scuffling New York Rangers — coming off a 6-3 loss Sunday in Anaheim, and with just two wins in their last seven — are expected to have a slightly different lineup tonight in San Jose.

Up front, winger Matt Puempel is likely to replace rookie Pavel Buchnevich. And on the back end, Dan Girardi will come in for Kevin Klein.

The Girardi-for-Klein switch is no huge surprise. Both d-men have been battling injuries, with Klein only returning Sunday after an extended absence due to back spasms. Head coach Alain Vigneault told reporters that he “didn’t want to put two injured defensemen in at the same time,” so Klein gets the night off tonight.

As for the potential scratching of Buchnevich, that decision would be slightly more controversial. The 21-year-old has two goals and three assists in his last 11 games, but clearly has not gained the full trust of his coach.

Henrik Lundqvist is expected to start in goal after a tough return to the net against the Ducks.

Canucks hint at shutting down injured Markstrom

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It doesn’t sound like Jacob Markstrom will play any more games for the Vancouver Canucks this season.

The 27-year-old goalie has been trying to recover from a knee injury suffered in the Canucks’ skills competition on Feb. 26.

“I don’t think things are great,” head coach Willie Desjardins said today. “We’ve got to make a medical decision on him.”

It has to be frustrating for Markstrom, who was hoping to challenge Ryan Miller for the starting job this year. The tall Swede played well at times, going 10-11-3 with a .910 save percentage — but in the end, he only made 23 starts.

“He’s a good goalie,” Desjardins said of Markstrom. “He can challenge for the number-one spot. Every time he goes in net, I’ve got lots of confidence in him. He’s left his mark this year.”

Markstrom is signed through 2019-20, while Miller is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s possible that the Canucks will re-sign Miller and come back with the same netminding tandem next season.

Oilers sign Walter Brown Award winner Gambardella

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Joe Gambardella, the UMass-Lowell senior that scored 52 points in 41 games this year, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with Edmonton, the club announced on Monday.

Gambardella, 23, captured this year’s Walter Brown award as the top American-born collegiate player in New England. He beat out the likes of Clayton Keller, Colin White, Charlie McAvoy and Tage Thompson for the honor, and joined a distinguished list of past winners.

Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey won the Walter Brown in ’16 and ’15, while Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau won it in ’14.

Gambardella is the first UMass-Lowell player to ever win the award, which has been given out annually since 1953. It capped off a nice year in which he also paced the River Hawks to the NCAA tournament.

An undrafted free agent, Gambarella’s ELC will kick in next season. It’s also worth noting that one of his UMass-Lowell teammates, defenseman Michael Kapla, signed with the Devils earlier today.

 

 

Coyotes to honor Cunningham for his ‘tremendous courage’

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The Arizona Coyotes will honor Craig Cunningham with a ceremonial puck drop on April 8 before their final home game of the season against the Minnesota Wild.

From the team press release:

Cunningham, who survived a medical emergency prior to the Tucson Roadrunners game on November 19, has made a remarkable recovery. Fans will have an opportunity to congratulate him on the tremendous courage, willpower and perseverance he’s demonstrated throughout his rehabilitation.

Cunningham was recently honored by the Roadrunners.

The 26-year-old’s hockey career is unfortunately over after doctors were forced to amputate part of his left leg due to concerns over infection.

True to form, though, he’s maintained a positive attitude.

“Obviously I miss playing every single day, and I miss the atmosphere around the locker room,” Cunningham said, per the Arizona Daily Star. “The guys have been great. From Day 1, they’ve been to see me every day. It’s been pretty incredible.”