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The Sid-and-Alex rivalry could get very personal in Vancouver

As an NHL rookie in 2005--06, the same season a precocious kid from Nova Scotia debuted, Alex Ovechkin (above) would grab a marker every day and write the same Cyrillic word on a grease board in the Capitals dressing room: Poccnr. Russia. See, Ovechkin was a puck patriot long before vowing in January 2009 that he would play in his homeland in Sochi in 2014 even if the NHL ends its Olympic participation after this year. The writing was on the wall.

Ovechkin has been Sidney Crosby's archnemesis since the 2005 junior worlds, although now their rivalry for Stanley Cups and scoring titles is as virtual as it is storied. As with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, you don't much see them on the playing surface at the same time. During the sublime playoff series between the Capitals and Crosby's Penguins last May—the stars had matching hat tricks in Game 2—they played head-to-head a total of just 34:44 in the seven games, less than 8% of the series's duration.

That dynamic could change in Vancouver if Canada and Russia meet, particularly if Canada is designated as the home team and has the last line change. Team Canada coach Mike Babcock is a proponent of playing his top line against the opposition's best players. Although Babcock figures to have a solid checking-line capable of bedeviling Ovechkin, he might force Ovechkin's trio to defend Crosby & Co.

Unlike Sid and Alex's anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better hat tricks of last spring, you can't top that.