Ilya Kovalchuk will entertain the Chelyabinsk crowd at this weekend's KHL All-Star game. The New Jersey star forward has decided to stay in Russia at least until Sunday despite an unofficial end to the NHL lockout.
He was supposed to appear in the Russian Urals city of Chelyabinsk together with other prominent NHLers including the likes of Zdeno Chara, Pavel Datsyuk, Evgeny Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.
But all of them headed to North America for pre-season training soon after Sunday’s talks breakthrough between the NHL and the players association.
Meanwhile, Kovalchuk is taking his time. "Will I stay in Russia? We'll see. Time will tell. We shouldn't rule it out," he says.
Last December, the 29 year old was included in the Western Conference All-Stars team, and despite the other All-Stars on contracts with NHL clubs having already been replaced, the KHL pledges Kovalchuk will take part.
Kovalchuk, who has scored 18 goals and made 22 assists in 35 games with conference-leading SKA this season, says that he is fully entitled to stay in Russia because the NHL's new collective bargaining agreement has yet to be signed.