Last week, with the Rangers still riding a season-opening five-game winning streak, Sport Express caught up with Ranger winger Nikolai Zherdev — who’ll face his former teammates for the first time in Columbus tonight — to get his impressions on the start of the season, his new team, and life in New York.
Zherdev: On the Streets of New York, Nobody Recognizes Me
The Rangers Russian forward Nikolai Zherdev, acquired in the off-season from Columbus in exchange for Fedor Tyutin, has surprised experts at the start [of the season] no less than the rest of the team. Collecting five points in the first five games and having the best plus-minus rating (+3), Nikolai has silenced numerous critics. The young Russian has shared his impressions on the beginning of the season in an interview with Sport Express.
- Such a fast start after an unconvincing pre-season became a shock for the press, including a number of your own in New York. Was it for you?
- No, why? We have a good team, and I don’t know why the press whipped up the hypothosis that we were not ready. They said the pre-season was bad. But in fact the primary roster never played. The whole time it was two lines of the core and two of spares. Half-teams played! But when the whole team began playing together (since the Victoria Cup Tournament), we’ve won everything.
- The Victoria Cup, similarly, also became a turning point — the third period, to be precise. Did you say something to one another during the second intermission?
- Yes, nothing critical. The whole team just played. The main roster got together and the goal for the game was defined — to give a good start to the season. And, off we went!
- But in the first two periods you played as if it was an ordinary pre-season game.
- No, it was simply hard to play with Magnitogorsk on such a large ice surface. Hockey is different for us here. The Magnitigorsk players had more time to pass, to play in their system, and we had to chase them. Had we played on a small rink, the score would have been different.
- You didn’t play on the old Rangers, but there is an opinion that the new, current team is set apart by the fact that there are no superstars on the team.
- Yes, it’s a harmonious team. I like it here very much. There really are no stars, everyone’s new, the players are young, the team hard-working, close. That, probably, is also the reason for success.
- But it’s not difficult? You, the quiet Russian guy, comes to a city where each player is customarily analyzed and investigated under a microscope.
- I don’t read the newspapers at all. I heard that the press here is very tough. And the fans too, but I for the time being don’t feel that. And in the streets of the city nobody recognizes me. I’m undercover (laughs).
- New York doesn’t affect you in any way?
- It’s fine in New York. Columbus, certainly, was a small city — a little bit boring. But here… I don’t know… There are places to go out and eat. But in general I have already lived in such a city — when I played for CSKA. The traffic is the same at any rate (laughs).
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