At his fifth season forthe Habs, Alexei Emelin is getting more and more important in the Canadiens lineup. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the popular Russian website sport-express.ru, Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin discussed Habs’ playoff chances, Andrei Markov and Evgeny Medvedev, and shared opinions on the World Cup and Winter Classic.
* For the original sport-express.ru article by Igor Rabiner, click here.
– Alexei, the season started very well for the Habs, but then your team couldn’t confirm this kind of results. The problem lies in Carey Price’s injury?
– I think that our defeats are caused not only by that reason. It’s easy to go out and say that we don’t have our main goalie. But we have to admit that we aren’t playing as well as during the first part of the season. There are many more reasons and we have to find them in ourselves.
– Do you think you’ll get to the playoffs?
– There are still many games to be played. We still have many chances to reach the playoffs.
– If the Habs won’t get to the playoffs, will you play with the National Team at the IIHF WC in Moscow?
– I’m always open for this. If they’ll call me, I’m going to play for the national team.
– Who is the toughest opposition this season?
– It’s very hard to play against the Capitals. They have a very good roster with three very dangerous lines. Not only because of Ovechkin, also Kuznetsov plays there a big role. He’s especially good on powerplays, he makes so many assists. I think his teammates are very happy to be playing with him.
– You always play an aggressive style, but from one hand it looks like your injuries got you playing with more accuracy. But on the other hand you’re always in the first places in the hits stats.
– I haven’t changed my style. Simply this season I had some small injuries and I couldn’t play at my 100%. But the Habs picked me because they wanted me playing that way. Why should I change the way I play if the team wants so?
– Do you play as hard against Russians too? Or if you notice that you’re hitting a player you personally know you’re going to hit less hard?
– There are no friends on the rink. I don’t act differently when I’m going to hit someone.
– Who is your best [Russian] friend in the NHL?
– Evgeny Medvedev. I know them all, but I’m constantly in touch with him.
– Wasn’t it a shock to have him moving overseas when aged 33?
– I wouldn’t say so. His goal was to get here when were still playing for Ak Bars Kazan together. Yes, he’s 33, but if he’s here, that means that he really wanted to.
– You live in Montreal for five years already. Did you get used to the city?
– Yes, I am used to Montreal now. I’ve got my family here, my kids go to school. All is good here. My daughters are engaged in figure skating. They see that I skate, and they want to do the same. The older one also plays tennis, but for now it’s just for her general development. Then we’ll see.
– At the start of your NHL career you were playing with Andrei Markov, but then you were split in different pairings. Is there a teammate with whom it’s easier to play?
– I don’t play with Markov for a long time already, since when they got me playing on the left. When I just got here I was playing on the right with Markov. It was easier to me, but then the coach got me playing on the left so that we had players with a different stick-side in each pairing. But generally speaking it’s the same to me, we still have the same game plan and the same goals.
– Markov plays for Montreal for 15 years already. No other Russian player lasted that long in the same team. What is his role in the locker room?
– Playing for 15 years in Montreal is a huge achievement. Everyone knows him here. Within the team he is, let’s say, the quiet leader. He doesn’t talk loud, but he’s very influent in the locker room.
– What are your impressions from the recent Winter Classic? Your team won 5-1 and you had an assist.
– It was my first time, and I liked it a lot. A big stadium, a great weather, excellent organization and 70.000 fans on the stands. We had a heated bench, therefore I can’t say we were freezing there. The weather wasn’t extreme either.
– Do you talk about the World Cup within the team? The Canadiens have many players who can get there, Markov, Price, Subban, Galchenyuk, Plekanec.
– No, we haven’t talked about it within the team. So far I can’t say that for me this tournament is as meaningful as the Olympics, because I never participated in it. But of course, I’m waiting for it and I want to play. I’ll work hard to get in.
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A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso