The line on Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin goes a little like this: he must win gold or it’s all been a failure.

And yet all we’ve been hearing the last few days is how content Ovi is with the pressure and how excited he is to play. He finally put deed to word on Thursday, scoring on his very first shift of the tournament.

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Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand

Some might think that there’s no Olympic hockey in Sochi until Wednesday. That would be incorrect.

The women’s tournament has been under way since Saturday. We’ve already seen Amanda Kessel put infinity goals up on the competition. And on Sunday, the world was introduced to 26-year-old Iya Gavrilova of Team Russia.

As the Russian women trailed underdog Germany 1-0 in the third period, Gavrilova — Russia’s offensive superstar — shook off a few defenders, went strong to the net, and stuffed home a wraparound past the German goaltender.

And then she did something familiar.

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Kuznetsov is unlikely to don red, white, and blue anytime soon. The Russian team that is. What did you think I meant? (Photo credit: Alexei Kudenko/RIA Novosti)

The Russian National Team has listed 33 players for its preliminary roster at the Channel One Cup, an annual international tournament for pro European players to be held in Sochi on December 19-22. In a surprise to many observers, including me, Evgeny Kuznetsov is not on the roster.

The young forward, a veteran of the World Juniors and World Championships with Sbornaya, seems to have fallen out of coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov‘s good graces. Even when Kuznetsov was playing well, Bilyaletdinov hadn’t hesitated to put Kuznetsov on a checking line. In the last 18 months, now that Kuznetsov is struggling, he seems to have lost his spot altogether.

Previously, Kuznetsov had explained that his decision to wait to come to the Capitals was to secure a spot on the Russian Olympic team this February. That decision is looking a bit less wise right now.

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Now these are beautiful singing faces.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is a world-class hockey player, but he’s also a prolific musician too. Consider his ever-growing library of songs: he dropped some sick rhymes and weird gyrations in Sasha Belyi’s Champion. And also whatever this was. And the time the Caps started a fake rock band!

And then on Wednesday, Ovechkin’s first foray into back-up vocals found its way onto the internet. This is worth four minutes of your undivided or somewhat distracted attention. Maybe pretend to work on a spreadsheet or something while watching this.

During the lockout, stars of the Russian national team gathered in Novogorsk along with Russian pop star Irina Allegrova to film a music video for the song Shaybu Shaybu, a pump-up pop number for the Sochi Olympics.

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Photo credit: Alexey Kudenko/RIA Novosti

On Thursday, Washington Capitals top prospect and perpetual flip-flopper Evgeny Kuznetsov played in Russia’s first game of the EuroHockeyTour, a four-stage European tournament held every year between Russia, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Team Russia shut out Sweden 2-0 in front of a sold-out crowd at St. Petersburg’s Ice Hall.

While Kuznetsov continues to infuriate Caps fans (and us Russians) over his answers on when and whether he’ll actually leave Russia, his skill is undeniable. Today, he scored the game-winning goal, had five shots, and was probably the best player on the ice for either team.

Despite limited ice time on Russia’s third line with Egor Averin and Sergey Plotnikov, Kuznetsov created chances almost every shift, showing off speed and agility not normally present this early in the season.

His goal, the first of the game, came with just under 13 minutes to go in the third period. After skating around the Swedish defenders, Kuznetsov fired a deceptive wrist shot past former Flames goalie Henrik Karlsson, low and short-side. We’ve got video.

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Photo credit: Nike

On Monday, we covered the Russian national team’s extravagant event where they released their new Olympic jerseys. The sweaters, modeled by Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin and women’s player Alexandra Kapustina, looked totally awesome from afar. Now, Nike has released promotional pics of their own that focus in on the details of the sweaters. They’re pretty impressive. And once again, Sasha is modeling for them.

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Alex Ovechkin Shows Off Russia's New Olympic Jerseys

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On Monday, the Russian Hockey Federation held a glitzy presentation at Sokolniki Ice Hall in Moscow to show off the new jerseys that the Russian men’s and women’s hockey teams will wear at the upcoming Sochi Olympics.

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was selected to model the jerseys along with Alexandra Kapustina from the women’s team. Legendary Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretyak emceed the event.

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Photo credit: Sport-Express

While the Washington Capitals season ended painfully last night after a 5-0 game seven loss to the New York Rangers, Alex Ovechkin will continue playing hockey. The Capitals revealed before his final press conference of the season that Ovi has been invited to Finland to join his comrades on the Russian National team competing in the 2013 World Championships. He will be flying over this afternoon.

“This morning they just called me and asked if I’m healthy and ready to go,” Ovi told reporters at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. “I said ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go.’ I’m still wanting to play. I don’t want to take off, I don’t want to watch games. I want to play hockey.”

“I’m in good shape,” he added. “Mentally I think I’m ready.”

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Evgeny Kuznetsov in Team Russia practice facility. (Photo credit: Sovetsky Sport)

4PM UPDATE: A few days ago Team Russia head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov announced three goalies and 25 skaters, including Kuznetsov, who “would be travelling to Helsinki and Stockholm for the Worlds Championship tournament.” Not all of the players named by the coach will be on the Team Russia’s final roster. IIHF rules allow for the minimum of 15 skaters and 2 goalies to be named no later than today; players can be added to the roster at any time during the tournament, up to the maximum of 22 skaters and 3 goalies. While some teams have filed their full rosters, Team Russia is taking an incremental approach. They announced today the first group of players – 3 goalies, 5 defensemen, and 11 forwards. Evgeny Kuznetsov does not appear on the list. Kuzya may make the team later, especially if some of the Russian players currently involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs do not make a quick 1st round exit.

ORIGINAL STORY: Caps prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov has been named to Team Russia for the 2013 IIHF World Championships, which begin Friday in Sweden and Finland.

Kuznetsov won gold in last year’s World Champs while playing in a limited role. Kuzya has been less than impressive in the last few months, earning Joey Crabb treatment by national team coach Zinetula “Bill” Bilyaletdinov, playing on the fourth line at the EuroHockeyTour tournament in Czech Republic. To his credit, Kuznetsov looked impressive in his limited ice time, which probably secured him a spot on the national team. After the tournament, Kuznetsov, who has been encouraged to tweak his game to a less flashy, more steady team style by Traktor coach Valery Belousov, complained about the “black cat on his shoulder” that’s been bringing him bad luck for the last half of the season. He told reporters that he has set a conditioning program for the off-season to come back in a better shape for the beginning of next season.

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The entire Russian national team was clearly elated to win World Championship gold this year, dominating their competition along the way and winning their final game 6-2. While there was a lot of the expected hugging and jumping around, former Cap Semyon Varlamov was especially overexcited, which led to a small mishap when he was handed the trophy.

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