Nabokov also won't play for Russia

MOSCOW -- Russia has suffered a major
blow to its buildup for the World Cup: No. 1 goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin said he would miss the event,
which begins across North America in early September.

Khabibulin, who backstopped the Tampa Bay Lightning to their
first Stanley Cup with some spectacular goaltending earlier this
month, was unhappy with Russia's preparations.

"We have no chance of winning based on the current situation
surrounding the preparations of our national team," Khabibulin
was quoted as saying by Sport-Express newspaper. "I have already had a similar experience before the 1996 World Cup when there was total chaos in our organization.

"This time we have more of the same and frankly I don't see
any point in my participation in this tournament," he added.

Russia, trying for its first title at this event since 1981, will also be without goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who helped the San Jose Sharks reach the Western Conference finals. He is having knee surgery next month.

Russia's preparations for the prestigious eight-team
tournament have been off track since they started.

Last month, Russia named former Dynamo Moscow coach Zinetula
Bilyaletdinov to lead the team in place of 73-year-old
Viktor Tikhonov, who was sacked after Russia's dismal
showing at the world championship in the Czech Republic.

Bilyaletdinov had been sacked by Dynamo a month earlier
after a string of poor results in the Russian Elite League, and
his appointment as national team coach brought heavy criticism
from the media and fans.

The Russians were also late naming their squad after asking
World Cup organizers to extend deadline by a week.

Several of their leading NHL players said they were
considering skipping the tournament, which brings together the
world's top eight teams -- Canada, the United States, Russia,
Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland and Germany.