Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Alex Nikulin Blog

This kid's blog just keeps getting better and better. Not only is he offering good insight into how the Sens training camp is progressing but we also get hilarious anecdotes from a dude who is obviously having some culture shock.

Here's the latest entry translated from Russian.


"September 18: "Shoot more," Heatley told me in Russian.

The most important period in my life has begun, the training camp with the big club. After the prospects tournament, which we finished with a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh, they announced that eight people have been cut and the rest are moving on. There was no discussion of the previous game, I guess the result didn’t much interest anyone.

Prior to the start of training camp everyone was called in for an individual interview with Bryan Murray’s assistant. I went with my buddy Kaspars Daugavins so he could translate. But it was short. I was told that I will remain with Ottawa and train with the big club. Keep doing what you did in the prospects tournament, and so on.

Right now we have about 40-45 guys skating. We’re split into two teams. I’m the only Russian on mine, since Anton Volchenkov, Ilja Zubov, and Kaspar are all on the other one. But this split is obviously arbitrary. If only because Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza are on my team.

We do have the first exhibition game at Philadelphia. I won’t be playing, and won’t be making the trip. But Ilja’s going. I’m not worried about this. Nothing wrong that I didn’t make that team. The head coach has to see everybody.

Pre-season training in Ottawa is very different from what I’ve experienced in Russia. The schedule is compact. At 10 AM we hit the ice, then it’s the gym, 45 minutes at max, and that’s it. Then you’re as free as a bird, do what you want.

On-ice activities also differ. Everything’s on a fast pace, there’s virtually no time to rest between exercises. We practice two-on-one and one-on-none breakaways, but not like in Russia. The speeds are really fast. Much faster than during the prospects tournament, but I already wrote how surprised I was by how quickly the guys race up and down. The easy part is that there’s just one practice a day. But still we skate an awful lot. You can tell that the best have been selected here. Each can make passes and receive them, and all at high speeds. No one’s an odd one out, which is also surprising. It’s a whole different level.

We haven’t had any cross-country. We haven’t been on the ground at all yet, actually. I think since the exhibition games have started, then we won’t be running anyway. Another curious moment is working out at the gym. In Russia we use the weights to set records. Lift some kinds of kilograms. In the NHL there are totally different exercises. I’ve discovered so many new things! How to perform balance exercises and work on your mid-section. I never did that. It wasn’t easy at first, but I’m used to it now.

I’m on a line with these two guys. One of them is Jim McKenzie, who was also at the prospects camp with me. The other one I don’t know. Haven’t really gotten to know my partners yet, and there are problems with English. It’s obvious that neither is a tough guy and both are playmakers. By the way, a guy came to camp for the “policeman” role. He used to be in cage fighting. Square kind of guy, huge.

During the intra-squad game he fought a local colleague. Had a good battle. A few punches were landed.During the intra-squad game I couldn’t really distinguish myself, although our team won. I took a penalty shot unsuccessfully, the goalie got it. Couldn’t say who he was, but definitely not Emery. He doesn’t skate with us at all. During the game I tried to take some plays upon myself, but it’s rather tough so far. I’m not as fast as most, but I’m working on that. I’ve got to keep trying. Especially since Ottawa has too many centers as it is, six or seven, I think. And roster spots on the main lineup are limited.

During the first practice I met Heatley and Spezza. Turns out Dany speaks a bit of Russian. He knows three phrases: “How are you?”, “Good evening,” and, what’s remarkable, he hinted, “Shoot more.” Probably learned from Ilya Kovalchuk. Spezza skated up to me and began talking about my stick blade. He really likes it, and plays with the same kind, only right-handed. Jason started explaining something, but I said I don’t understand English. He said “Okay” and skated away.

Too bad I don’t chat with anyone in the locker room. I can ask how it’s going, and reply that everything’s fine. But I also understand more and more now. Speaking is really hard. That will come with time.All in all, things are relatively good. I decided not to think about my chances of making the big team. Must concentrate on the training - then come what may."

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