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Ovechkin and Kuznetsov still want to see Russians in the Olympics, even if it is as a neutral team

Ovechkin and Kuznetsov still want to see Russians in the Olympics, even if it is as a neutral team

The feeling from the Capital's Russian athletes on Wednesday was one of disappointment over the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics.

 “It’s hard for athletes,” Alex Ovechkin told reporters. “Some athletes work out for maybe three years and get ready for Olympics.”

He continued, “I don't know where it goes but obviously the athletes who's not going to be in the Olympic Games because of the rules, they work so hard to get ready and do their best in Olympic Games. It is only one lifetime opportunity. It's hard.”

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Ovechkin was one of the most outspoken critics of the NHL’s decision not to participate in the Olympics even going so far as to say he would still go despite the league’s decision. He later had to back down from those comments, but his passion for representing his nation has been clear so the fact that no one will be able to compete under the Russian flag in PyecongChang obviously stings the proud Moscow native.

Fellow Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov was quick to point on that the IOC’s decision affects more than just hockey players saying he felt for those athletes who compete as individuals.

“I can imagine how that feels for those athletes...who prepare like 3-4 years before the Olympics and now it's a little bit tough situation for them.”

The Olympics holds a special meaning for Russian athletes like Ovechkin and Kuznetsov. For fans in North America, they get the opportunity to watch the best hockey league in the world every year. To most Americans and Canadians, winning the Stanley Cup is the pinnacle of the sport.

For Russians, however, they grow up dreaming about winning international tournaments.

“When I've grown up,” Kuznetsov said, “I've watched all the Olympic Games and the World Championship because we don't have those cable TV back home and all we have to see just how the national team played. That's how we've grown up.”

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The IOC left a path for clean Russian athletes to still participate as neutrals under the name of “Olympic Athlete from Russia.” The decision those eligible athletes now face is whether to participate as neutrals or whether to boycott the games in protest.

Despite their shock over the IOC’s decision, it was clear both Ovechkin and Kuznetsov would still support their nation’s athletes competing under a neutral flag.

 There were some reports out of Russia saying Ovechkin said the team should not go given the IOC's decision, but he denied saying that.

“I'm pretty sure they're going and I'm going to cheer for them,” he said.

Kuznetsov also echoed that sentiment saying that if he could, he would go for “the Russian fans in the tournament and if you will win the medal, they will sing the national anthem for you. That's probably what will be best when lots of Russian people will sing the national anthem.”

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Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

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NBC Sports Washington

Blackhawks fans tossed after directing racist remarks at Washington's Smith-Pelly

CHICAGO—Four fans were ejected from United Center on Saturday night for taunting Devante Smith-Pelly as the Capitals’ winger sat in the penalty box.

The fans, according to a team spokesman, yelled “basketball, basketball, basketball” at Smith-Pelly, who is black. Smith-Pelly was in the box for fighting in the third period of an eventual 7-1 loss to the Blackhawks.

The taunts were confirmed by an off-ice official, the spokesman said, and the fans were subsequently removed from the arena.

Smith-Pelly did not speak with reporters after the game but is expected to address the incident at the team’s next media availability. The team is scheduled to practice Sunday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo.

Caps Coach Barry Trotz did not hold back when asked about the fans' comments.

“There’s absolutely no place in the game of hockey or our country for racism,” Trotz said. “I think it’s disgusting, and there’s no place for it. …It just shows ignorance.”

The Blackhawks responded on Twitter with an apology to Smith-Pelly, who is one of roughly 30 black players in the NHL.

February is Hockey is For Everyone month in the NHL.

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3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

3 stars of the game: Caps suffer ugly loss to scuffling Blackhawks

Just about everything that could go wrong did for the Capitals on Saturday in a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Caps were coming off a strong 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but none of that carried over in the trip to Chicago. The Caps took on a Blackhawks team that had lost eight in a row, but Chicago quickly took control in the first period and never looked back.

Washington gave up 21 shots on goal in the first period and found themselves down 3-1 after the opening frame. Things did not get much better from there as they gave up another three goals in the final four minutes of the second.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Jonathan Toews: Toews opened up the scoring in the first period with a quick shot from the corner that caught Braden Holtby by surprise.

Later in the first, he recorded an assist as his pass sparked a breakout that led to Brandon Saad's deal that gave Chicago back the lead. The Caps tried to make a game of it in the second period, but Toews intercepted a pass from Brooks Orpik that led to a 2-on-0 with himself and Patrick Kane that Kane netted to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead and signaled to everyone that the rout was on. Saturday was only the second three-point night of the season for Toews.

2. Patrick Kane: Toews helped the Blackhawks take control early, but Kane helped provide the knockout punches in the second period. A bad pass from Orpik was intercepted by Toews that led to a 2-on-0 with Kane. Holtby made the initial save on Toews, but Kane was able to knock in the rebound for the goal.

Kane also added an assist on Artem Anisimov's power play goal which extended Chicago's lead to 6-1.

3. Tom Wilson: Before this one got out of hand, it looked like Wilson had erased the tough start for the Caps as he deflected a shot from Matt Niskanen into the net to get Washington on the board.

Saturday's tally was his third goal in two games and his 10th of the season, marking the first time in his career he has reached double digits in goals.