Ilya Kovalchuk has been in the news lately due to reports regarding his potential exit from the KHL and return to the NHL. Thanks to a Paul Bunyan-esque chop to the legs of Alexander Radulov, he’s grabbing headlines for another reason.
The slash came in the first game of the KHL’s Western Conference Final, which pits Kovalchuk’s SKA St. Petersburg against Radulov’s CSKA Moscow. With St. Petersburg down 3-0 and Radulov in control of the puck, Kovalchuk approached Radulov from behind and tagged his ankle with a violent chop.
While at first glance the slash may not look like much, the second look shows that Kovalchuk caught Radulov right where there’s no padding – right where it hurts. Though Radulov may have gone for the hard sell on slash, his reaction when he’s back to the bench is enough to make you believe maybe it did hurt enough to fall to all fours and limp off the ice.
Kovalchuk is no stranger to physical play, getting in nine fights during his NHL career and dropping the gloves twice in the KHL.
It’s funny, too, because if there’s any player who has been in a similar situation to Kovalchuk, it’s Radulov. After the 2008-09 campaign, Radulov left the Nashville Predators to join the KHL’s Salavat Yulayev Ufa, only to return back to Nashville for a nine-game stint at the end of the 2011-12 season. The following year he was back in the KHL. Kovalchuk, who retired from the NHL following the 2012-13 season, has been rumored to be eying a return to North America in time for 2016-17.
One would think the two players might have exchanged notes. That might not be the case after this incident.