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Alex Ovechkin Excited For Olympic Competition In Russia

February 11, 2014

Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has scored more than his share of memorable goals, but one of his favorites was his game-winner for Russia against Canada during the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.

Ovechkin, 20 years old at that time, beat goaltender Martin Brodeur with a top-shelf wrist shot. Russia's 2-0 victory sent the Canadians packing from the tournament.

Russia went on to play in the bronze-medal game, but lost, 3-0, to the Czech Republic team, which got a goal and an assist from Martin Erat, Ovechkin's current Capitals teammate and fellow Olympian.

For Ovechkin, 28, playing for his home country is everything, he said. He's competing in his third Olympic Games in 2014, and the first on his home turf, in Sochi, Russia.

Olympics 2014: Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Russian Olympian Alex Ovechkin. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of U.S. State Department)

"It's always different when you play at home," said Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 40 goals. "It's incredible."

Caps head coach Adam Oates said he had counseled Ovechkin to tune everything out and play hard.

"I said to him, 'You've got to go over there and be the fastest, hardest-working guy you can possibly be, because that's what they'll remember,' " Oates said. "No matter what happens, if he does that, he'll come back with a positive experience.

"There's a tremendous amount of pressure on him. I think he's done a great job."

The Olympic teams have begun practicing in Sochi, and group play will start Feb. 12 with Sweden versus Czech Republic.

On Feb. 13, Russia will play against Slovenia and the United States will play Slovakia.

Of the five Capitals playing in Sochi, Erat is the only one with an Olympic medal (bronze, 2006) on his résumé. Like Ovechkin, Erat is competing in the Olympics for a third time.

John Carlson (United States) and Marcus Johansson (Sweden) are making their Olympic debuts. Nicklas Backstrom (Sweden) played in the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, when Sweden lost during the quarterfinals.

"It's something special," Erat said Feb. 8 after the Capitals' 3-0 victory against the New Jersey Devils. "You never know how many times you're going to be there. It's every four years. You never know if the NHL players are going to be there next time. It's special. You're playing for your country."

Johansson said he's looking forward to the bigger ice surface, but he cautioned against the idea that it would give Europeans a big advantage.

"One or two games and everybody's used to it again," he said. "There's more room to skate. The game is different. Sometimes you can pick up more speed and skate through the neutral zone with more speed because there's more room."

Before he left, Carlson, the lone defenseman among the Capitals in Sochi, said he wasn't worried about effects of jetlag.

"Once we get over there, we've got a day and a half or so before our first game, so plenty of time," Carlson said. "Definitely nervous -- I'm excited. [But] it's still hockey."

The quarterfinal round will begin Feb. 18 and the gold-medal game will be Feb. 23.

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