The NHL lockout will help Russia’s national team coach prepare for the country's home Olympics in Sochi in 2014, Russian Hockey Federation president and legendary Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak said Sunday.
The deadline for averting a lockout passed Saturday after the NHL and the players’ association failed to agree terms on a new collective contract.
With stars such as Evgeni Malkin returning to Russia during the lockout, Russia coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov will be able to keep track of the players likely to make his Olympic team, Tretiak said.
“Zinetula Bilyaletdinov will be able to observe the potential candidates for the Sochi Olympics with his own eyes,” Tretiak said.
He added Russian NHL stars would always be welcome to return to the KHL.
“Regarding Russians, we will always take our guys and give them the chance to play. It’ll be interesting for the fans to see our best hockey players.”
Malkin signed a contract to play in the KHL with his former club Metallurg Magnitogorsk during the lockout, as has his former Pittsburgh Penguins teammate Sergei Gonchar.
Other players linked with a return to Russia include Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and this year’s No. 1 draft pick Nail Yakupov.