A surprising guest was on hand today as Avangard Omsk held a light-hearted inter-squad game as part of their final preparations for the start of the KHL season on Wednesday. The man spotted sitting in the stands with Omsk head coach Sergei Gersonski and general manager Anatoli Bardin was none other than New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Pelino. Pelino was joined by a translator, and explained his presence in Omsk to Oleg Malitsky of Championat.ru. “The purpose of my visit is to become acquainted with the systems of the Avangard hockey club and support the relationship between our clubs. I have spent some time here and must say that I am very impressed with everything I’ve seen. The hockey operations in Omsk are first class. The arena, infrastructure, organization… We with the Rangers would very much like to maintain close contact with Avangard. Maybe play some exhibition matches, and also start an exchange program for the training staff.” Pelino’s comments on the relationship between the two teams echo those of Bardin during his visit to New York in April to woo Jaromir Jagr to Siberia. Of course, Bardin also said at the time that Ranger 2007 draft pick Alexei Cherepanov would join the Rangers for camp this fall — a statement that has since proven false.
While Pelino wasn’t asked about Cherepanov, he was asked about Jagr and whether he had spoken to the former Ranger during his visit. Pelino had the following to say about the man who lead his team in scoring in each of the past three seasons: “Jagr, of course, on any team is given special status, the status of star. It’s a pity for us that he left New York, but I see that he is doing well in Omsk. And I’m only happy for him.”
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