In the December 3rd game against the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin had a great performance with one goal and one assist as his team won 4-2. In this translated interview, originally appearing on the Russian website championat.ru, Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin talked about the game against the Canucks, his linemates, and Sergei Gonchar.
* For the original championat.ru article by Alexander Govorov, click here.
– Dallas completely outshot the Canucks, yet the final part of the game has been tough for the team. Why?
– We played against the Canucks three games already this season, all of these games were hard. The Canucks always fight hard. Today we scored an important goal at the end of the game, it has been good because they were trying to fight back and created many scoring chances one after another. Their goalie Ryan Miller today played great.
– Was it hard to play against the Sedin twins?
– I can’t say that it has been super hard. But I can also say that I don’t usually pay much attention to the opposition when I’m on ice. Every NHL player can play hockey, it’s hard to tell something about the single players.
– How did you manage to outskate the Canucks defense and beat Miller one on one?
– I’ve been asked to play this way more often, to attack the crease, to put pressure on defense. I tried similar plays this season, but I couldn’t score on them. Today I have been lucky, that’s why I could score.
– The start of the season has been a bit rocky for you, but recently you started playing well. What changed in your game, psychological aspects a part?
– Yes, you’re right, but my teammates in Dallas supported and helped me a lot. I can say that now I am in optimal shape. Last year I almost didn’t play. Someone may think that it didn’t influence me, but I still feel like I had to start from scratch, the way I prepare for the games, the way everything should be done. It’s the same even in some everyday stuff. Psychology has a big role. I remember the way I behave when I was a rookie, the start wasn’t easy in those times too. This has been pretty much the same this year, and everything is smooth now. I started thinking less and less about things that aren’t going well and I simply started working even harder. That’s very important. The guys supported me in many things, and the situation gradually improved.
– Today you played with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. It isn’t hard to imagine that playing with them is easier and more interesting. How good is your relation on ice with the guys you’re playing more often with this season, Antoine Roussel and Cody Eakin?
– Frankly speaking, it’s good to play with any of my teammates. We have a great locker room environment. I played many games earlier with Roussel and Eakin, we played well, we scored and the team won. Playing with them was good.
– At the start of your career in North America you were helped by Sergei Gonchar. Can you tell more about that period?
– Gonchar keeps on helping me! We talked a lot this summer, when we met. Gonchar had a big influence on me, I still listen to his advice, which keeps on being useful.
– Many think that Gonchar has all the tools to be a good coach. Do you agree?
– Yes, absolutely. You can meet such an experience in only a few guys around the hockey world. He played so many seasons in the NHL, he played in Russia, he played at multiple Olympic Games. I think that Sergei is one of the top all-time Russian defensemen.
– You skated at the 2014 Olympic Games. You played rather well, even scored, but most likely the Olympic tournament brings you negative emotions. Is that true?
– Eh, when I think about the Olympics, I get in panic mood. It was very hard for me after the Olympics. I even played the rest of the regular season very badly because of that. It’s a very negative mark in my life.
– Team Russia head coach Oleg Znarok will have a trip in North America in January to have a look at potential players for the IIHF WC and the World Cup. Of course it’s early to think about the IIHF WC as it’s not clear yet what will happen during the NHL playoffs, but do you think about the World Cup and getting called for it?
– Frankly speaking, I’m not thinking about that tournament yet. Considering my experience with the past seasons, I think that it’s better living one game at time. That’s all what I should be interested in. We’re gonna play today, and looking to the future isn’t useful. I need to play one game and then think about the next one. I shouldn’t think more, it’s even too hard for me [laughs]. When I think too much some thoughts start getting on my head and who knows what happens then [laughs].
– Do you still follow what is happening in the KHL?
– Of course, I do follow the league. I don’t always have time to watch full games. I don’t follow only [my hometown team] Traktor [Chelyabinsk], but I follow all my friends who are now playing in the KHL. There are many guys of my age there, and also a lot of older ones with whom I played in the junior national team. It’s always interesting following games, I try to watch the highlights and discusse them with my friends.
A professional hockey writer and translator. Loves Russian culture, language, and hockey. Reachable on twitter @AlexSerenRosso