On Wednesday afternoon, Washington Capitals forward Ilya Kovalchuk spoke to the media on a Zoom call following Group Blue’s practice on the third day of training camp in Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan. The Capitals are set to play their exhibition game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday, July 29 in Toronto, the Eastern Conference hub city for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The 37-year old Russian says his teammates showed up for training camp in “great shape physically and mentally” adding they are “all like a big family.” He feels more comfortable with the guys now than when he was acquired from the Montréal Canadiens on February 23 in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. “It’s nice to feel familiar with everything,” he said.
“It’s so easy for me to get to know the guys and hang out,” Kovalchuk said. “It’s easy, especially with all those Russians here.” He credited the last road games prior to the NHL Pause helping with team bonding.
The Canadiens were not in a playoff position earlier this year; however, the NHL’s Return to Play Plan extended the usual 16-team format to 24 teams, which includes the Canadiens who will play a best-of-five qualifying round against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Toronto.
When asked how it feels to potentially face off against his former team, Kovalchuk said, “It’s all history.” He’s glad to be in Washington and complimented the team and fans. Kovalchuk hopes to see the Canadiens “in the Conference Final”.
Kovalchuk would love to “bring some entertainment to the people” as fans watch the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on TV. He noted it was a “tough” emotional state when the shutdowns and pause occurred, but reiterated how we “need to go through it together”.
“We’re all excited to have hockey back.”
You can watch the full interview here.
By Della Young