The lone game in the KHL on Wednesday pit Avangard Omsk against nearby Chernyshev Division rivals Barys Astana. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Jaromir Jagr had scored his second hat trick of the young season — and added an assist — to lead Avangard to a 6-3 victory. The trio of goals gave Jagr nine goals in Avangard’s first 11 games, putting him in sole possession of the KHL’s goal scoring lead and ranking him second overall in points. His team, meanwhile, ranks second in the division behind powerhouse Salavat Yulaev Ufa, fourth in the Eastern Conference, and seventh overall in the 24-league team.
Late last week, after the big Czech set up the game-winning goal in Avangard’s 2-1 win over Spartak Moscow, Regina Sevostyanova of Sportbox.ru spoke to Jagr about Avangard’s start to the season, the team’s ongoing difficulties scoring goals, and his plans for the upcoming Olympics… and beyond.
- I’m not ready to talk about a new contract yet — said Jagr — because my goal is to win a championship in Russia. I came here with this goal two years ago, and I continue to believe in it now. Last season, whichever way you look at it, didn’t turn out so badly for us. Yes, it wasn’t very easy in the beginning, but in the playoffs we performed well. And maybe this year we’ll have more luck, and we’ll be able get our way.
- Do you think about returning to the NHL?
- Like I already said, I want to see how this season turns out first — what we’re able to achieve, how I’ll play. I want to play good hockey and have to be sure that I’m really needed and can help a team. You know, I came to Siberia because I like the people here. They’re excellent fans, each of whom has a big heart. Our governor Leonid Polezhaev also strongly influenced my decision to stay. He’ll be the one deciding my fate with the club.
- Evaluate the start of the season for Avangard.
- I think we’ve played pretty well. But we can’t score — that’s our main problem now. The transition from defense to attack is still slow. We create opportunities, but don’t convert on them. That will all change. All the more so since we have a simply excellent goaltender [Karri Ramo]. He gives us time and the chance to find our game. I think that’s how it is in any game — in the beginning you can’t score. But then you open the scoring and its easier from then on.
- In the game against Spartak you played on two lines. Was it difficult?
- No. I’ve trained a lot in my life, I have enough strength. If I needed to, I could jump out on the ice now and play a second game without a break. I get enormous pleasure from the game.
- You were able to make a pretty amazing scoring pass to Vladimir Pervushin, who as a result scored the winning goal.
- Yes, from the stands, it probably looked unusual. But I have long arms. And I held the stick in one of them.
- What can this victory do for Avangard? Do you expect that it will help the team start to score?
- That’s not the issue. I think you need to play with what you have. If we have one of the lowest numbers in the goals scored column, it means we need to play better defense. We’re not the team that’s made up only of stars, we have to work hard for it. It’s difficult to do anything if everything goes wrong. Players are nervous… Right now we need to understand that we don’t have a problem.
– The Olympics in Vancouver are quite soon. What are your expectations with regards to them?
- The Czech team didn’t have a training camp beause it would have been pointless. Because, as you know, the majority of players had already left for the NHL. And in Vancouver the national team will basically be made up of those players, since it will be necessary to play on the small ice surface there. I don’t think there will be many guys from Europe and I don’t know whether I’ll go. If I’m called, and I feel that I’m in shape — I’ll go. If not — it’s better I watch the games from the stands.
Regina Sevostyanov, Radio Mayak, special for Sportbox.ru
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