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Traktor hit by Nichushkin row


Traktor Chelyabinsk’s build-up to the Gagarin Cup Final has met an unwelcome distraction in the form of Team Russia’s preparations for the Under-18 World Championship in Sochi. Traktor’s forward Valery Nichushkin, one of the emerging stars of the series, is due to join up with the national squad – potentially ruling him out of most of the decisive series against Dynamo Moscow.

But Traktor is determined to hold on to its player. “We are ready for any confrontation,” club director Vladimir Krechin told the club’s website. “For the first time in our history we have the chance to win the Gagarin Cup. Now all our players are vital. The Russian Hockey Federation, when it set up this tournament, was aware that it would clash with the Gagarin Cup Final. For us, the final is more important.”

According to IIHF rules, any player called up for a tournament is expected to join the team camp seven days before the event – in this case on April 11, the date of Game 3 of the final series. National team head coach Igor Kravchuk has said that after the team plays two warm-up games on April 8 and 9, a decision will be taken on when Nichushkin should report for duty.

One possible compromise would see Nichushkin play in Games 3 and 4 in Chelyabinsk before heading to Sochi on April 13 – potentially missing the decisive games of the final series.