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NHL three-time Stanley Cup winner Malkin still hopes to play for Russia at 2018 Games

A number of Russian ice hockey stars are currently playing for various NHL clubs

MOSCOW, July 27. /TASS/. NHL Pittsburgh Penguins Evgeni Malkin said on Thursday the US-based league would change its decision against participation in the 2018 Olympics and he would join the national squad for the Winter Games in South Korea.

The NHL announced in early April that it had decided against altering its schedule for the 2017-2018 season, meaning that international players bound by contracts with NHL clubs would not be able to leave next year to join their national teams to play at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in South Korea’s PyeongChang next year on February 9-25.

Many Russian ice hockey stars are currently playing for various NHL clubs.

"The Russian national ice hockey team will be the frontrunner at the Games in case NHL players are not participating," Malkin said. "However, I do hope that the decision will be changed since there is still half a year ahead [of the Games]."

"I really wish to play at the Olympics, since I am not that young anymore," Malkin, who is celebrating his 31st birthday next Monday, said.

"I need to practice hard now in order to play decently in the NHL, be selected to the national team and then travel to the Games."

Malkin played for the Russian national Olympic team three times - 2006 Olympics in Italy’s Turin, 2010 Olympics in Canada’s Vancouver and 2014 Olympics in Russia’s Sochi. Playing for the national squad at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships he is two-time gold, two-time silver and two-time bronze medalist.

The central forward is also the three-time Stanley Cup winner grabbing the prestigious trophy with Pittsburg Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017.

President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation (RHF) Vladislav Tretiak said on Wednesday that the lack of Russian players from NHL at the 2018 Olympics would have no impact on the national team, which, according to him, would be made up of players from the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

The National Hockey League Players’ Association lashed out at NHL’s April decision calling it shortsighted. The association criticized the NHL’s authorities for not only prohibiting its players for playing on the international arena, but for building obstacles for the game of ice hockey on the whole.