Two members of the New York Rangers organization will meet in Bern, Switzerland on Wednesday when Team Russia and Nikolai Zherdev face off against Vladimir Denisov’s Team Belarus in the opening game of the Quarterfinal Round at the 2009 IIHF World Championship.
Denisov, who spent the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack after signing an entry level NHL deal with the Blueshirts last June, joined his countrymen in Zurich-Kloten last week following the Wolf Pack’s first round playoff loss to the Worcester Sharks. Unlike Zherdev, there was no time for Denisov to adjust to the time difference, as the defenseman played his first game on Tuesday, a mere five hours after stepping off the plane in Switzerland following an overnight flight.
There’s been no rest for the weary, as Denisov played over seventeen minutes in his first game and has been leaned on more and more by head coach Glen Hanlon as the tournament has progressed, culminating in a team-high 27:22 of ice time his most recent contest against the Czechs. Known more for his hard-nosed defensive style than his offensive prowess, the 5-11, 207-pound Denisov has no points, six penalty minutes and three shots on goal in four games.
The Belorussians, who finished the opening phase of the tournament with a 4-2 record, will face their stiffest competition yet when they match up against the undefeated Russians on Wednesday.
Belorussian sports site Pressball contacted Denisov by phone prior to his being cleared to leave for Switzerland by the Wolf Pack, and talked to the 24-year old blueliner about the tournament and about the shoulder injury that caused him to miss six of the Pack’s final eight games. Their interview is translated below.
- Vladimir when you will arrive in Zurich?
- It’s not known exactly. We just concluded the season yesterday. Today (Monday, April 27th) the team meetings will take place, during which the team’s management will wrap up the season. I think that then I will learn what more I need to do.
- Have representatives from the Belarus national team already gotten in touch with you?
- Yes. On Sunday I talked with the coaches, before the Belarus game with the Slovaks started. I let them know that it seemed that Hartford’s management wasn’t against my participation in the World Championship. However, the team will have the final say.
- By the way, you haven’t played in the last three weeks…
- Yes, almost a month ago I suffered an injury to my shoulder. It was a very serious injury. I couldn’t even practice. In one of the games, I can’t even remember now who we played, my shoulder was hit the boards at [high] speed. They had to take a picture [MRI] and for two weeks I had to forget about hockey and practices altogether. Therefore I had to miss the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs. I returned only for the last two games of the series with Worcester. Team physicals took place on Sunday and on Monday the results will become known. A personal conversation with the doctors and team management will take place.
- How is your health now?
- My shoulder aches a little. I played the last two games of the playoffs not on [painkilling] injections, but on painkilling tablets.
- Did you follow the performance of Team Belarus in Switzerland?
- Yes, I watched the broadcast of the game against the Slovaks on the Internet. I didn’t see the game with the Canadians, so I can’t compare them. We won against the Slovaks — well done. I think it liberated us psychologically. As I understood, it was a strategically important duel. Now it possible to prepare for the Hungarians calmly.
- So the Hungarians are strong now? The Canadians already knocked them out 7:0. (the conversation took place during the evening of Sunday’s Canada – Hungary game).
- I’m sure that the Hungarians are already preparing for the last game of the group round of the tournament. I think they are capable of presenting a surprise, therefore its necessary to approach this opponent with the utmost concentration and without [too much] self-confidence.
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