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World Cup of Hockey: Russian must beat Finland in final group game to advance

Reporter: Jonas Gilbart 丨 CCTV.com

09-22-2016 16:03 BJT

And the North American team awaits their fate. If Russia beats Finland, the Russkies go through. A loss, and the continental youngsters advance. One man certain to be at his best in that game is the captain of the Russian side, Alexander Ovechkin, who is looking to bring hockey glory back to his country.

Ahead of a do or die final group stage match, Team Russia gathered on Wednesday for their World Cup team photo and situated in the heart of the lineup -- Captain Alex Ovechkin.

It is fitting that OV would be placed there because in international play. He truly seems to be his team's heartbeat. So often, as he goes, Russia goes. And they will need the best pure goal scorer the nation has ever produced to be at his best.

Alex said, "I think everybody has pressure and of course in this position, you just can't think about the pressure and just go out and play. It's a huge opportunity for me and the guys to play in this tournament and just to be who we are."

With 525 career NHL goals -- a Russian record, no one could ever deny the skill that the Great Eight brought with him to the rink. However, early on, many did question his natural leadership ability.

Over the years though, those questions have faded as the man has evolved both on and off the ice.

"Definitely, he motivates the whole team in the locker room. And he is doing a very good job as captain of Team Russia. Everyone supports him and he is doing very well," said Harijs Vitolins, Team Russia assistant coach.

Although it is Ovechkin's star that shines the brightest, Russia is stacked with talent and his teammates know, they won't be able to simply rely on their Captain to pull them through by himself.

"I think we have 22-23 leaders and everyone can bring their best to the game. We can only do it if we work together," said Vladimir Tarasenko, Team Russia forward.

A win on Thursday against winless Finland and Ovechkin and Russia will complete the final four of the World Cup of Hockey alongside Canada, Sweden and Team Europe. A loss though would see them heading home.

But you can certainly bet that OV will factor in mightily in this group stage finale. He has a unique knack of elevating his game when the stakes are the highest and for this proud Russian, the chance to bring his nation closer to their first title in this tournament since 1981 when it was still called the Canada Cup and Russia was still, the Soviet Union is sure to be plenty of extra motivation.

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