Should the New York Rangers miss the playoffs or be knocked out early, winger Nikolai Zherdev will join Team Russia at the 2009 IIHF World Championship in Switzerland at the end of April. Zherdev discussed his conversation with the team’s coaching staff and his season with the Rangers in an interview with Sport Express that was published on Wednesday.
Nikolai Zherdev: “I’ve waited for a long time for an invitation to the national team”
On Tuesday the tour across North America of Team Russia coaches Vyatcheslav Bykov and Igor Zakharkin came to an end. Nikolai Zherdev spoke yesterday about the results of his meeting with the coaches of the team in an interview with “SE”.
- Tell us about your meeting with the national team coaches.
- It was a normal meeting. The coaches simply told me that the exact roster isn’t know for the time being and will be guided by the NHL playoff situation. It turns out, that if the Rangers linger in the playoffs for two rounds, I won’t go to Switzerland.
- And if they don’t linger?
- Then I’ll go. They told me that they want to see me on the team, that they expect that I would be ready to play.
- Was your possible role on the team discussed?
- No, we didn’t begin to discuss roles, in fact the situation still isn’t clear. As you know, it’s impossible to understand who will arrive, and who can’t, so what sense is there to speak about who I’ll play with? And in general my role is clear to me. I’m an attacker [forward], so I’ll attack.
- Last year you were offended by the leadership of the national team.
- Yes, well, there was no offense, it was simply that they called me late. I expected that it would happen much earlier, I would have been more ready. But this now is a completely different thing: they came, talked face to face, and said that I’m wanted on the team.
- Your response was appropriate?
- Yes, of course. I’ve waited for a long time for the invitation.
- What feelings did you experience when you watched the last World Championship
- I was happy for the guys. There was no disappointment that I wasn’t there. That wasn’t the last World Championship, right? I hope not, anyway.
– Did you discuss anything else with the coaches?
- They told me that in the summer they intend to hold something like a training camp for the Olympic team.
- Were you invited?
- We didn’t speak specifically about that subject. The conversation was mainly about the World Championship, and on anything further we’ll be in touch.
- On the other hand, the World Championship could become for you bigger step towards Vancouver.
- Of course, I hope for this. Though right now I’m a little torn: I want to go to the championship, and I want to get in the playoffs.
– In the last game against New Jersey you improved your chances considerably.
- Yes, the game was important. And in general, we’re approaching the playoffs normally, there’s no panic on the team. It’s just that the last games were somewhat unsuccessful. But ahead now are the two most important, with Carolina and Montreal. If we play them well, we’ll be in the playoffs. For us a lot depends on the goaltender. Lundqvist pulled out the game with New Jersey, he got a shutout. The other players feel much more confident, knowing that the goaltender always comes to their aid.
- How would you assess this season for you personally?
- A normal season. Not bad. There have been worse.
- Which means that it could have been better?
- It could. I had one long slump when I went many games without points, seven, I think. No, ten, maybe. (Nikolai is mistaken: his longest “zero” stretch in the season was four games. But in December and January he had a string of 13 games without a goal. — Ed. Note) A new coach, John Tortorella, came in, and from that came a change of style; we had to adjust. But in general, I’m happy with my role on the club.
Last night SE correspondant Alexander Shapiro got in touch with Zherdev’s agent Alexander Tyzhnykh.
- We spoke often about the World Championship with Nikolai, and in each conversation he stressed that he very much wanted to play for the national team. He’s never refused to play for the team, and will go with pleasure. As far as I know, there was an agreement with the coaches that if the Rangers are knocked out in the first round he will fly out to Switzerland immediately.
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