Alex Ovechkin will lead world champion Russia in the 2010 Olympic ice hockey tournament after being named to a preliminary 23-man squad yesterday.

The Washington Capitals' left wing, the NHL's MVP the past 2 years, will be part of Russia's high-powered offensive unit, which includes Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit) and Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta).

They will seek to end their country's Olympic gold medal drought at the Vancouver Games in February. The hockey superpower has not tasted success since winning the last of their eight Olympic titles as part of the Unified Team in 1992 in Albertville, France.

Russian coach Vyacheslav Bykov, who captained the 1992 Olympic team, also picked 40-year-old Sergei Fedorov, one of nine players from the domestic Continental Hockey League (KHL), on the squad.

Fedorov signed a 2-year contract with Metallurg Magnitogorsk to return home after an 18-year NHL career, which included winning three Stanley Cups with Detroit and capturing the Hart Trophy as the league MVP in 1994.

San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, one of last year's finalists for the Vezina trophy as the NHL's top goaltender, likely will be Russia's No. 1 goalie in Vancouver, with Ilya Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes as his backup.

The 24-year-old Ovechkin is hoping for a Russia-Canada final.

"That's the game everyone wants to see. No doubt, [Canada] would be very motivated playing on home ice and also gunning for revenge," he said, referring to Russia beating their arch-rival in the final of the past two world championships. "But we'll be just as hungry as them."

Bykov said the squad was provisional; he could change players if their performance dropped.

"I wouldn't guarantee a place on the Olympic team to anyone," he said. "If my players can't perform up to the standards playing for their respective clubs, then how can I rely on them in Vancouver?"