Pavel Datsyuk didn’t take part in Russia’s first pre-Olympic practice, but his coach is hopeful his captain will be in the lineup for Thursday’s opener against Slovenia.
Datsyuk missed over a month with what the Detroit Red Wings called a lower-body injury, an apparent problem with his left knee. The 35-year-old returned to play two games before the break, skating under 15 minutes in each.
“I don’t think it’s a serious problem, dangerous,” coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said through an interpreter. “I think he’s going to be OK.”
When Russia took the ice for its team photo at Bolshoy Ice Dome, Datsyuk was front-and-centre. But then he left the ice when his teammates started practice.
Alexander Svitov appeared to be serving as a place-holder for Datsyuk during line rushes, doing them between Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kovalchuk did not express much concern about Datsyuk’s absence.
“I think he’ll be good before the first game,” he said. “I think tomorrow everybody’s going to skate.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland wasn’t worried about Datsyuk not practising, saying given the injury the star centre will probably be given future opportunities to rest even after the Olympics.
Evgeni Malkin centred Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin in Russia’s first practice. All three goalies were on the ice, and Sergei Bobrovsky said he did not know what the starting plans were between him and Semyon Varlamov.