SUN Hockey Pool

Russia's loss is NHL's gain

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

A pair of talented Russians -- one near the end of a bountiful career and one presumably on the cusp of another -- want to play in the NHL next season.

Unrestricted free agent Alexander Mogilny, who has been battling hip problems, and star-in-waiting Alexander Ovechkin, who has decided to opt out of his 2005-06 contract with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Super League, both are looking ahead to the fall when the NHL resumes play.

Ovechkin's decision yesterday to leave Omsk means he will be in the Washington Capitals' lineup on opening night. The Caps picked the gifted winger first overall in 2004.

Where Mogilny, who spent the past three seasons with the Maple Leafs, plays is another matter. He had hip surgery during the lockout but is recovering well.

"I've spoken to Alex and he is upbeat," Mogilny's agent, J.P. Barry, said. "He has been skating for the past couple of months and he feels good and he is making progress."

Whether Mogilny is ready for the start of the season is unclear.

JUST SAY NO TO DRUGS

Doug Weight is in full support of the NHL's expected strict drug policy.

The new policy would see players subject to a minimum of two drug tests a year with no advance warning. A player would earn a 20-game suspension for a first-time offence, a 60-game ban for a second offence and a permanent suspension from the NHL after a third violation.

"We have seen the other sports come to the forefront quite a bit," Weight, of the St. Louis Blues, said at the NHLPA meetings in Toronto. "I think it's great. It should be put in place (in the NHL) and it should work."


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