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Evgeni Malkin denies Sochi Olympics rift with Alex Ovechkin

Dmitry Chesnokov
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NHL: Stadium Series-Pittsburgh Penguins at Chicago Blackhawks
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Mar 1, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) warms up before a Stadium Series hockey game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field. (Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Evgeni Malkin made the media standing outside the Penguins locker room wait for him after the Pittsburgh Penguins' Monday night win in Washington against the Capitals. The pain of losing in Sochi is still present on Malkin’s face every time a question is asked about it. And he doesn’t hold back answering. Malkin talked walking to the team bus on Monday night.

The Washington-Pittsburgh games have lost their luster a little. Don’t you think?

“I don’t know. I think fans still like them. The playoffs will start and if we play against each other I think everything will come back. The season is long, there are a lot of games. And now every time we play against Washington now the hype is not the same. Maybe because Sid had some injuries in the past the draw of this game was lost.”

This is the first time after the Olympics you played against Washington. Did you and Alex Ovechkin talk?

“No. We arrived late last night, and we are leaving right after the game. They are also leaving right away. Maybe we will talk tomorrow. But what’s there to talk about? To remember Sochi?”

You had Crosby and Kunitz sitting next to you in the locker room with gold medals. Jokinen and Maatta bring up bad memories. Was this difficult at first?

“Of course it was. It is difficult to remember it all, of course. There has not been a day when thoughts about the Olympics didn’t enter my head, when I wouldn’t remember it. I don’t think anyone is taking it harder than the players. Yes, we didn’t win. And there was a lot of negativity after the Olympics that Ovechkin and I had a rift, that we had one with the coach. This was not the case. It doesn’t feel good to read that. Everyone is upset.”

Everything was OK with Alex [Ovechkin]?

“Of course! We come to the Olympics and we all understand… Especially now when everything that happened in the past is forgotten. We get along great. We’re friends.”

It was more of your inability to play with each other.

“We don’t have chemistry. We should have been probably moved [to different lines]. Why talk about it now? Of course we didn’t show the type of a game we are capable of. Certain changes to the lines should have been made probably. But yes, it seems there is no chemistry between us. We played well in the first game, but then it all disappeared.”

That’s what was said. Also that you wanted to play with [Nik] Kulemin on the same line.

“Again, these are rumors. People need to write something. I never approached the coach asking him to change lines. He sees the game on his own, he saw our line. He moved Semin for Popov. That was his decision. And I couldn’t go to him and somehow ask for something or make suggestions.”

Could you describe your feelings after the exit in Sochi?

“There were no feelings. Emptiness sets it right away. You just don’t understand what is going on. But you do understand this is the end… And again, you see Sid the Olympic champion in the locker room… But a big thank you to them than they came, that they didn’t have their noses up, didn’t show off their medals, that it was all respectful. They understand that today they won. But maybe tomorrow it will be us. They were very respectful and showed a lot of support, because at first [my] mood was non-existent. And I thank them for it.”

Did the Olympics take away from your desire to play hockey?

“It did. But thank God there are games, and I know that wins will come. Maybe I will win with Pittsburg and that will somehow smooth over my disappointment. It’s good that there are a lot of games. We played tonight, playing again tomorrow. It helps. You start forgetting a little bit.”

A lot is expected from your team, and the Penguins didn’t land any big names at the deadline.

“A lot is expected from us every year. And we are currently in first place. Last year we got stronger at the deadline but that didn’t help. So maybe we drew some conclusions this year. At the same time we are planning to have Martin and Letang back. We have a good team. Throughout the season we have been very consistent, in first place. But there is a salary cap. We can’t just buy everyone!”

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