MINSK, Belarus – Russia’s dominant run at the world hockey championship took a stunning turn Sunday night when Alex Ovechkin suffered an apparent right leg injury in a victory over Germany.
Ovechkin took contact to his right knee when he was hit by German forward Marcus Kink in the third period. The Russian captain did not put any pressure on his right skate as teammates helped him off the ice.
Russia’s coach, Oleg Znarok, said that Ovechkin was taken to the hospital but would not reveal anything more about the 28-year-old’s status. Znarok said through an interpreter that more information would be released later.
Russian news agency Sport-Express and the IIHF website reported Ovechkin was back at the team hotel and walking with a limp but without crutches. The report cited the team doctor calling Ovechkin’s condition “better than expected.”
After leaving the ice following a 3-0 victory over Germany to remain undefeated, Russian players expressed concern about Ovechkin’s condition even though they didn’t know much.
“Of course it’s scary,” former Winnipeg Jets forward Alexander Burmistrov said. “We hope he’s healthy and can play.”
German goaltender Philipp Grubauer, a teammate of Ovechkin’s with the Washington Capitals, shared a similar sentiment.
“I hope nothing is wrong with him,” Grubauer said. “I hope he is fine. You never want to see that. We need him in Washington. He had 51 goals this year, he is one of the best players in the world, so we need him up in Washington.”
The Capitals released a statement acknowledging the injury and saying they were in contact with Russia’s medical staff.
Ovechkin’s agent, David Abrutyn of IMG, did not have any additional information when reached via email. Ovechkin, however, tweeted a link to his Instagram giving a thumbs-up sign with a message that he’s OK.
No penalty was called on the play. And while Kink refused comment when asked about the hit, Montreal-born German coach Pat Cortina defended his player.
“That’s not what my team’s about, that’s not what my players are about,” Cortina said. “That’s an unfortunate incident and we hope he’s OK, I hope he’s OK. He’s a great player. He’s a great ambassador for ice hockey. Our game needs players like that. Hopefully he’ll be fine and we’ll see him back on the ice soon here.”
There have been over 30 injuries at this tournament, but Ovechkin’s could turn out to be the most significant.
Ovechkin has three goals and six assists in six games for Russia, and his nine points are tied for second-most in the tournament. Russia has outscored opponents 29-6 in going 6-0-0 to win Group B.
Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin is expected to join the team Monday and could play Tuesday in the preliminary-round finale against host Belarus.
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