MOSCOW, August 22 (R-Sport) - For Pavel Datsyuk, the question of who will lead the host nation onto the ice as captain of Russia's hockey team at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games is secondary. The fact that he's there to help is all that counts.
The two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings is part of the core of NHL players including Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin expected to deliver gold on home ice next February.
That pressure leaves little space for such trifling matters as what is on his jersey, the 35-year-old insists.
"Do I dream of the role of captain? My dream is to help the team," Datsyuk said at an Olympic team huddle in Moscow during the NHL offseason. "Whether I will be captain or not has no meaning," added Datsyuk, the alternate captain for the Red Wings.
"I'm ready for the pressure that will be exerted upon us. The closer we get to the Olympics, the greater it's going to get ... but we saw how the Canadians coped with the pressure in Vancouver," he said of the 2010 Olympic champion, also the host nation.
"We need to learn how to do this."
Datsyuk was on the 2002 bronze medal winning Russian team at the Salt Lake City Olympics, the closest he has come to the top prize and one step on the podium lower than the silver medal that Russia won four years earlier in Nagano. He also helped Russia to the 2012 world championship title.
AK Bars Kazan defenseman Ilya Nikulin is Russia's most recent captain, taking the lead role at the 2013 world championships, which saw his country finish sixth. Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers was the captain in Vancouver, where Canada beat Russia 7-3 in the quarterfinals.