Russia is the first of an eight-part series previewing the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Other team previews can be found here: Canada | USA | Sweden | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Finland | Mexico (Satire)
Team Russia may come into the Olympics with one of the most talented rosters ever seen. They thirst for a gold medal. Russia has never won an Olympic gold in hockey (they won it many times as the USSR before 1991).
They have to be considered the favorites coming into the games. This team has a perfect blend of young stars and experienced veterans. Those younger players will also be even better in a year from now.
The Big Red Machine has its eyes set on Vancouver.
C Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
LW Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
RW Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers
C Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings
LW Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals
RW Alexander Radulov, Salavat Yulaev Ufa
C Sergei Fedorov, Washington Capitals
LW Alexei Kovalev, Montreal Canadiens
RW Aleksay Morosov, Ak Bars Kazan
C Alexei Yashin, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
LW Sergey Mozyakin, Atlant Moscow
RW Nikolai Zherdev, New York Rangers
This has the potential to be the best offense EVER in Olympic hockey. If Bykov choses to put Ovechkin and Malkin together on a super-line, and he no doubt will, opposing coaches will be having nightmares. Add Ilya Kovalchuk into the mix and the top line will nearly be unstoppable.
Pavel Datsyuk will center a second line, and these guys are no slouches either. Alexander Semin has played will, if not brilliantly at times. Radulov has excelled on both NHL and KHL stages.
The third line is laced with veteran stalwarts, who have been the face of Team Russia in the past. Fedorov and Kovalev can still play effective hockey and Morosov has found a second career with Kazan.
Line Four is a mixture of veteran leadership and young talent. Yashin has proven he can play in both the NHL and KHL. Mozyakin has never played in the NHL but always shows up to international competitions. Zherdev is young but extremely talented.
Nikita Filatov, Columbus Blue Jackets; Alexander Perezhogin, Salavat Yulaev Ufa; Danis Zaripov, Ak Bars Kazan; Alexei Tereschenko, Salavat Yulaev Ufa
LD Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh Penguins
RD Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens
LD Sergei Zubov, Dallas Stars
RD Fedor Tyutin, Columbus Blue Jackets
LD Anton Volchenkov, Ottawa Senators
RD Vitaly Atyushov, Metallurg Magnitogorsk
This unit isn't nearly as flashy as the offense, but it gets the job done. Offensive force and power play expert Sergei Gonchar will be paired with the defensive skills of Andrei Markov.
The big question concerning the second pairing is will Zubov play. He has opted out of several international events in the past and his health may be a factor here. Nonetheless, if he chooses to play, he will be a big asset.
The third pairing combines defensive-minded Anton Volchenkov with passing wizard Vitaly Atyushov.
If Zubov decides not to play, his replacement will almost certainly be Denis Grebeshov of the Edmonton Oilers. Ilya Nikulin of Ak Bars Kazan and Dmitri Kalinin of the New York Rangers are also candidates.
G Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks
G Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes
This may be Russia's strongest pair of goaltenders in some time. Nabokov is one of the top five goalies in the world, and Bryzgalov is not a bad second option. He can be inconsistent at times but is good enough.
Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago Blackhawks
Gold Medal. Defeats Canada 7-5 for the Championship.