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Ovechkin thinks the NHL’s bluffing about Olympics

Russia v USA - 2016 IIHF World Championship Ice Hockey: Bronze Medal Game

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MAY 22: Alexander Ovechkin #8 of Russia skates against USA at Ice Palace on May 22, 2016 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images)

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Alex Ovechkin thinks the NHL’s bluffing about not going to the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“Next year’s schedule is not out there yet,” the Russian superstar told reporters today in Toronto ahead of tonight’s Capitals-Maple Leafs game.

Ovechkin’s Washington teammate, T.J. Oshie -- one of the stars of the Sochi Games in 2014 -- echoed the sentiment.

“For some reason, for me, I still think it’s going to happen,” Oshie said, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

But the NHL said yesterday that it would finalize next season’s schedule “without any break to accommodate the Olympic Winter Games. We now consider the matter officially closed.”

The league had been hoping to gain concessions from the NHLPA or IOC in order to continue Olympic participation. But the players said they wouldn’t negotiate for the right to go, and the IOC was likewise resistant.

Hence, yesterday’s announcement.

Ovechkin has said all along that he intends to go to South Korea regardless of the NHL’s decision, and he didn’t back down from that today.

Evgeny Kuznetsov also said he’s going, per Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star.