PITTSBURGH, PA - FEBRUARY 7: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on February 7, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Ovechkin says Russia’s ‘mission’ is Olympic gold


How important are the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi to Russian athletes like Alex Ovechkin?

The short answer is, extremely important.

Per the Associated Press, here’s the longer answer, courtesy Ovechkin: “Olympics are probably the most important thing for Russians than any other athletes in the whole world. And since I was a little kid and since everybody was a little kid, their dream was playing in Olympic games, especially if we have a chance to represent our country in Sochi in Russia, it’s unbelievable and it’s going to a great thing. That’s what I mean it’s a strength. I don’t think somebody (is) going to (think) their mission is done to be just on Olympic team. Our mission is to try to win gold medal.”

The last time the Russians won hockey gold at the Olympics was 1992, when they competed as the Unified Team following the break-up of the Soviet Union. That was before NHLers started competing in the Games, which first occurred in 1998.

In 2010, the Russians were dominated 7-3 in the quarterfinals by the host Canadians, who went on to win gold.

While it’s the Russians who will be on home ice in 2014 — and, clearly, Ovechkin believes that will give his country an advantage — there remain questions about the overall talent level of the roster.

Russia plays its first game of the tournament on Feb. 13 versus Slovenia.

Read: Ovechkin expresses sadness over Russian bombings ahead of Olympics

Welcome back, Babs: Red Wings chase Bernier

Mike Babcock
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Mike Babcock admitted that there might be a painful transformation as he tries to fix the Toronto Maple Leafs.

His old friends made that abundantly, painfully clear on Friday.

As of this writing, the Detroit Red Wings are up 4-0 on the Buds. Justin Abdelkader just completed a hat trick with James Reimer in net, so the subplot isn’t just about Jonathan Bernier having another tough start.

The big story might just be Detroit’s varied new line of Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin (who scored his first career goal) and Henrik Zetterberg. At the moment, they’ve combined for seven points.

This post will be updated if Detroit’s tribute video to Babcock surfaces.

Really, though, this beating has been about as ugly as this blanket so far.

Blue Jackets’ Wennberg done for night with upper-body injury

Alexander Wennberg, Jay Bouwmeester
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It wouldn’t be a regular season game without a Columbus Blue Jackets injury, right?

OK, the Blue Jackets hope that 2015-16 looks different from the medically challenged mess of last season, but at least one player is banged up tonight.

Alexander Wennberg suffered an upper-body injury and won’t return on Friday, as the team noted.

There’s no word yet regarding how serious the issue might be. It looks like he might have suffered an injury thanks to a Chris Kreider check:

Naturally, the Blue Jackets must hope that this doesn’t begin another trend.