Russian roster for World Cup of Hockey remains a work in progress
(CP) - It's anybody's guess who'll show up for Russia's World Cup of
Hockey training camp.
Alexei Zhitnik is the latest NHL star to indicate he probably won't
be in Kloten, Switzerland, a week Thursday. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin
of the Tampa Bay Lightning previously declared his disinterest,
citing "total chaos" in Russia's preparations for the previous World
Cup tournament, and the name of San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni
Nabokov, who had arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this summer, no
longer appears on the Russian roster either.
Zhitnik, who played for the Buffalo Sabres last season and who now is
an unrestricted free agent, will likely to give Kloten the kibosh,
too, says his agent, Mark Gandler.
"He wants to play but he has a pretty serious problem with his
insurance because he doesn't have a contract," Gandler said
Monday. "As of today, we would say no.
"He would love to play but, if he can't, he can't."
The NHL and the NHL Players' Association jointly organize the World
Cup tournament and are responsible along with players' home
federations for arranging insurance against injury. Players under NHL
contract are insured for the balance of their NHL contracts while
players not under NHL contracts are insured for two years of
projected earnings. Zhitnik apparently is disatisfied with the level
of insurance being offered him.
Lest fans fear missing out on seeing Russian teen Alexander Ovechkin,
the unsigned No. 1 pick by the Washington Capitals in the NHL's June
entry draft, agent Don Meehan gave assurances Monday that Ovechkin
will play. Meehan said he's asked for but hasn't been provided by the
Russian federation with full details of insurance coverage.
"He's going to play, no matter what," said Meehan.
There are players on other World Cup teams who don't currently have
contracts, for example, Canada's Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames
and Dany Heatley of the Atlanta Thrashers, who are restricted free
agents. Insurance is not an issue with either player and they'll be
in camp in Ottawa a week Friday.
The Russian entry has been beset with dissent from the outset.
Friends of the just-retired Igor Larionov were miffed he wasn't given
a managerial role and there was controversy over who would be head
coach. Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was eventually selected over the
legendary but controversial Viktor Tikhonov.
Russian didn't name players until nearly a week after the May
deadline. There now is concern that some of its players won't be able
to obtain work visas for the United States.
Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who played for Anaheim's AHL affiliate in
Cincinnati last winter, has been added to the Russian roster. He's
highly regarded. He had a .919 save percentage last season. The only
other goalie on their list is Maxim Sokolov, who plays for Avangard
Omst in the Russian elite league.
Some big names have been erased from the tournament, and they aren't
Goaltender Ed Belfour pulled out of Canada's team Monday. Back
problems were blamed. A substitute has yet to be named. Earlier,
Canada had to delete Detroit Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman and
Colorado Avalanche defenceman Rob Blake because they've not
completely recovered from injuries. Same for Philadelphia Flyers
centre Jeremy Roenick, who was scratched from the U.S. lineup and
replaced by Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils.
Robert Lang of the Red Wings withdrew from the Czech team without
explanation and was replaced by Anaheim forward Petr Sykora.
Philadelphia forward Sami Kapanen said after being named by Finland
that he was too worn out from the NHL season to play in the World
Cup. Niklas Hagman of the Florida Panthers takes his spot, and when
Jere Karalahti was ruled ineligible the Finns opted for defenceman
Janne Niinimaa of the New York Islanders.