MOSCOW, January 7 (R-Sport) - NHL stars Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin lead the way on Russia's hockey roster for its first home Winter Olympics in Sochi, with goaltender Semyon Varlamov also selected on Tuesday's list despite his legal problems this season.
The 25 man roster includes 10 players drawn from the Russia-based KHL, one more than at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, with the most prominent of that group being ex-New Jersey Devils wing Ilya Kovalchuk, now of SKA St. Petersburg.
He is also one of only nine survivors from the 2010 roster as coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov looks to many of the players who won Russia the 2012 world championship gold medal.
Colorado Avalanche netminder Varlamov, who last month saw an assault charge against him dropped, is likely to fight for the starting goaltender spot with Vezina Trophy-winning Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets. The third goaltender on the roster is Alexander Yeryomenko, who has won the KHL title in the last two seasons with Dynamo Moscow.
St. Louis Blues wing Vladimir Tarasenko said he was overjoyed to be selected.
"It's hard to put my joy into words because, after all, this was a childhood dream, to make it to the Olympics," he told R-Sport. "And now it's worked out, and at home too, in Russia."
Now the real work begins, he added.
"The time's coming when you have to prepare well for the tournament so as not to slip up in Sochi," he said.
One significant omission from the roster is 39-year-old Dallas Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who will now not become the first hockey player to compete at five Olympic Games for Russia. Gonchar has missed Dallas' last five NHL games with concussion, but has since returned to the team.
Although 18-year-old forward Valery Nichushkin of Dallas makes the Olympic roster, fellow Russian youngster Nail Yakupov, 20, does not after a season so far characterized by clashes with Edmonton Oilers management.
Playing in the NHL is far from being a ticket into the Russian Olympic team - wing Alexander Semin of the Carolina Hurricanes misses out, as do New Jersey defenseman Anton Volchenkov and Edmonton goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov.
The Olympics will take place from February 7 through 23, with the men's hockey tournament running from February 8-23. Russia will play the United States, Slovakia and Slovenia in the opening pool stage.
Goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL), Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche, NHL), Alexander Yeryomenko (Dynamo Moscow, KHL).
Defensemen: Anton Belov (Edmonton Oilers, NHL), Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens, NHL), Andrei Markov (Montreal Canadiens, NHL), Evgeny Medvedev (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), Nikita Nikitin (Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL), Ilya Nikulin (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), Fyodor Tyutin (Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL), Slava Voynov (Los Angeles Kings, NHL).
Forwards: Artem Anisimov (Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL), Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings, NHL), Denis Kokarev (Dynamo Moscow, KHL), Ilya Kovalchuk (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL), Valery Nichushkin (Dallas Stars, NHL), Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals, NHL), Alexander Popov (Avangard Omsk, KHL), Alexander Radulov (CSKA Moscow, KHL), Sergei Soin (Dynamo Moscow, KHL), Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues, NHL), Alexei Tereshchenko (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), Viktor Tikhonov (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL).
(The story was updated to include player details, full roster.)