On Saturday, New York Rangers forward Nikolai Zherdev was held scoreless in his World Championship debut, a 4-1 victory over Team USA (highlights), extending his scoring drought to eight games over eighteen days across two continents. To add injury to insult, the 24-year old winger suffered a hand injury during the contest and was seen after the game and at the hotel the next morning with his left hand wrapped in a bag of ice.
Yet despite the injury, the 24-year old winger broke out of his slump on Sunday, earning his first point as a member of Russia’s senior national team with the primary assist on linemate Alexander Frolov’s spin-a-rama backhander in the third period of Team Russia’s 6-1 victory over Latvia (highlights). Sport Express caught up with Zherdev — who’s rooming with Nashville Predator defector Alexander Radulov in Bern — before Sunday’s game, and talked to the soon-to-be restricted free agent about the Rangers’ post-season failure and what he hopes to achieve in Switzerland.
ZHERDEV THE OPTIMIST
Rangers forward [Nikolai] Zherdev arrived in Bern on May Day morning. Not stopping off at the hotel, he raced with his bags and sticks to the arena. He got to the arena at the height of Team Russia’s practice, so had to wait for nearly half an hour to meet with his teammates. At the hotel Zherdev has made his home with Alexander Radulov — they were good friends at the time of the Salavat forward’s departure for Nashville.
- Your motivation in Bern, Nikolai, is clear to the naked eye.
- I have come to the national team with tremendous hunger. After the Rangers were knocked out of the playoffs I understood that there was no time to be especially disappointed. I arrived home, gathered my things, bought a ticket and flew to Europe.
- How has your acclimatization gone?
- I was ready to go out and practice immediately, but instead I received the order to go to the hotel and sleep (smiles). The day before the game against the Americans I slept nearly all day. In the evening I got out for a walk with Radulov and Mozyakin — I felt just a little worn down. But afterwards I almost ceased to notice the change in time zones, and now there are no problems.
- The coaches of our national team said that after getting knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Nabokov suffered serious moral devastation. And you?
- So far I haven’t taken notice of the disappointment in my soul. We lost, but as they say “such is the sporting life”. We’ll win next year. Five years ago at the World Junior Championship, for example, we lost in the final after an illogical goal 14 seconds before the end of the third period (actually it was in the quarterfinals of the 2004 World Junior Championship when Team Russia lost to the Finns by the score of 3:4 – ed. note). At the time it was insulting. But what just happened with the Rangers was ordinary as far as playoff failure goes overseas.
- Does it bother you that you didn’t score any points in the series with Washington?
- It’s very difficult for me to understand. I had sufficient chances in the NHL playoffs, but the puck didn’t go in the net. But I have left the analysis of my performance overseas for the second half of May. At the World Championship I will not dwell upon these misfires. On the contrary, they give me added motivation.
- How so?
- I came in Switzerland to “redeem myself” and to finish the season on a high note. I very much want to prove myself, to show that I can be one of the most necessary players on the team. Especially since it is my debut at the World Championship. I go to practices and games with the feeling that success awaits us. The guys have emotions only for victory, everyone wishes for gold.
- The victorious spirit of the locker room that Team Russia is using, do you remember it?
- Indeed, we used the same room with the Rangers at the Victoria Cup when we beat Magnitogorsk. I suppose before my arrival the victorious aura was maintained only by Dima Kalinin, [but] now he has an assistant (smiles). Together we’ll try to make it so that the Bern ice becomes lucky for the rest of the guys on the team. I want to win very much — so far it hasn’t worked out with the Stanley Cup.
- Did you watch the national team in North America?
- On the Internet. On TV they only show the Stanley Cup playoffs, no time remains for broadcasts from Europe. And I called Kalinin a couple times as well.
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