Varlamov to start season on injured reserve

(Courtesy of The Hockey News)

Semyon Varlamov has been placed on the injured reserve with the Washington Capitals for the start of the upcoming season. The 22-year-old keeper who is the starting goalie for the Caps has been nursing an undisclosed injury throughout training camp and will miss the season opener on Friday against the Atlanta Thrashers. Michal Neuvirth will get the nod in net but Varlamov will still travel with the team as will Dany Sabourin.
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Slava Kozlov Joins KHL’s CSKA Moscow

(Courtesy of Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

It appears Slava Kozlov’s storied NHL career has come to an end as the 38-year-old winger has signed a one-year deal with his former Russian club CSKA Moscow of the KHL. Kozlov’s now former club the Atlanta Thrashers opted not to resign the veteran who had spent the last seven years with the team where he scored 145 of his 356 career goals.
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Maxim Afinogenov joins SKA

While introducing new signings Evgeni Nabokov and Denis Grebeshkov, KHL and SKA St.Petersburg president Alexander Medvedev announced that long-time NHL winger Maxim Afinogenov planned to join his club for the upcoming season. Afinogenov agreed to join the club for the next five years after the Atlanta Thrashers wouldn’t meet his demands.
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Ilya Kovalchuk Traded to the New Jersey Devils


Let’s get right too it.

One of the greatest snipers of the post-lockout era has been traded. Long-time Atlanta Thrasher Ilya Kovalchuk has moved on to what we might call “bigger and better things”, picking up his Warrior sniper rifle and heading to Newark. In need of some offense, the New Jersey Devils shipped a package down south that included talented rookie Niclas Bergfors, veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya, now-suspended prospect Patrice Cormier and the Devils’ 1st-round draft choice in 2010. A kings ransom indeed.

Kovalchuk’s resume speaks for itself. A Rocket Richard winner in 2004, the Tver native and one-time Spartak Moscow product has two 50-goal campaigns to his name and currently sits in 6th place for goals scored with 31. Many experts have speculated that his point totals might even be better if he could escape from the dark shadow of Atlanta, but that hypothesis will be put to the test soon enough.

It makes almost 10 years ago that the Devils went out and added another Russian-born playmaker in Alexander Mogilny.

But several questions immediately arise about the addition. Will Kovalchuk be more than a rental in New Jersey? Can he fit into the defensive-oriented and systematic style of head coach Jacques Lemaire, while Atlanta never even dreamed of putting a harness on him? Will the high price be worth it, come the playoffs?

“The reason we got Alex Mogilny at the time was similar reasons – what he could bring offensively with the shot he had and he could do almost anything individually at times, but still be a team player. I feel Ilya can bring that sort of explosiveness and I also really believe strongly that he wants to win and will fit in.” said Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello. While Kovalchuk is certainly one of the best individual offensive talents in the game today and also thirsts to be part of a winning team, only time will tell how well he fits in with his new teammates.

But one thing that is no question whatsoever is what he potentially makes the Devils.

With two immensely gifted wingers in Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, along with Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur, New Jersey now fields a fearsome combination of explosive offense and highly disciplined defense. That kind of mixture is one that is absolutely necessary for playoff success, and the Devils have not played past the 2nd round in some time.

Cynics will be quick to say that Kovalchuk is only making a stop in New Jersey before testing the waters of free agency, in an attempt to win now. After all, Lamoriello might feel like his team’s window to win another Stanley Cup is closing, at least with Brodeur and other veterans. Meanwhile, an optimist will say that the addition of Kovalchuk could be a new beginning and a new way of life in Newark, as the Devils plan to take more of a high-flying offensive approach in planning for Brodeur’s retirement.

Either way, the Kovalchuk era in New Jersey will begin on Friday night when the Rock plays host to the other big trade deadline player, the Toronto Maple Leafs. In doing so, there is little doubt that the most star power in the NHL resides in it’s most competitive division, the Atlantic.

Fallen Comrades around the league(UPDATED)


When Andrei Markov injured his ankle back in early October it would start a wave of Russians to be bit by the injury bug with some of the most notable stars having to miss extended time.

First it was Pavel Datsyuk who recently returned to Detroits line-up to try and make up for lost time in hopes of helping a sub-par Red Wings team regain the momentum from last year.

Then within a few days of each other players such as Anton Volchenkov of Ottawa, Ilya Kovalchuk of Atlanta, Sergei Gonchar and Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh all have been placed on the shelf as their teams are forced to compete without their biggest helpers.

From shoulders to wrists to ankles the players have racked up a wide range of knocks to miss a small but important chunk of the season. Most players are expected back before mid November with plenty of time before the Olypmics in Vancouver.

Last night Alexander Ovechkin joined the party when he sustained a upper body injury after being involved in a scrum forcing him to leave mid-game and not return.

According to Capitals beat writer Tarik El-Bashir and Sport-Express’s Slava Malamud Ovechkin is likely to miss Wednesday’s game vs the New Jersey Devils which has one writer on here who has tickets very upset at the moment.

UPDATE: Ovechkin has been listed as week to week but will travel with the team. When asked about traveling but not playing Ovechkin responded with “Get some nachos, coke and enjoy the game”

Maxim Afinogenov gets tryout with Thrashers(Updated!)

article_11315_2(courtesy of The Hockey News)

Former Buffalo Sabres RW Maxim Afinogenov has been invited by the Atlanta Thrashers for a tryout with the team. While this isn’t exactly breaking news since he was invited back on the 17th we are currently getting ready for some big changes to the site which has put our number one priority on the back burner.

Afinogenov spent most of the off-season in his hometown of Moscow preparing for the Russian National Team training camp with his former club Dynamo Moscow. He even took part in a fan appreciation day with Dynamo against their fans.

With rumors that Atlanta had gone after former ranger Nikolai Zherdev before his move to Atlant Moscow Oblast it appears that Afinogenov might be his replacement. It is possible that fellow countryman and captain Ilya Kovalchuk recommended Afinogenov as he was vocal in the signing of Nik Antropov earlier in the summer.

With Atlanta trying to do everything in their power to keep Kovalchuk who is entering the last year of his contract they might offer a deal to Afinogenov to appease the former Spartak Moscow standout.

Afinogenov spent most of last year on the injured list and but did however lead the Sabres in scoring in 2005-06 with 73 points. GM Don Waddell said of the recently turned 30-year-old “He’s a high-end guy, a skill guy, it doesn’t hurt. We’ll see what happens.”

In 569 NHL games he has 134 goals, 200 assists for 334 points. However his tendency to get injured has not helped him find a team since he became a free agent. If the Thrashers do not extend an offer it is highly plausible the speedy winger would return to Russia and most likely Dynamo to finish off his career that has seen goals such as this one below.

Day after this intial post Afinogenov signed a one-year contract worth $800,000.

Nik Antropov signs with Atlanta

article_25489_2(courtesy of The Hockey News)

On Thursday, Nikolai Aleksandrovich Antropov signed a four-year $16 million deal with the Atlanta Thrashers after being rented by the New York Rangers on the trade deadline. The 29-year-old native of Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan had spent his entire career with the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded away by newly appointed GM Brain Burke who publicly stated the 6’6 winger was on his way out.

In 527 NHL games Big Nik has 132 goals, 172 assists for a total of 304 points not to mention 483 penalty minutes. He is a +53 for his career. Antropov’s fate was pretty much set when Rangers GM Glen Sather stated that his chance of returning to the blueshirts was a snowball’s chance in hell as his asking price was deemed too high.

Antropov joins Ilya Kovalchuk and Slava Kozlov as the latest Russian speaking player to don a Thrashers uniform. It is understood that Kovalchuk was very vocal about obtaining Antropov as the two played together with Ak Bars Kazan during the lockout in 2005.