Former NHLer Brendan Bell reflects on KHL training camp, getting to know Jaromir Jagr

brendanbellott.jpgIt’s been no secret that the mid-level talent exodus of players from the NHL to the KHL has been a growing storyline for the league, particularly this summer. Brendan Bell fits into that category, as the moderately productive offensive defenseman moved to Omsk, Russia to play for Avangard Omsk, a KHL team that happens to employ future Hockey Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.

The Ottawa Citizen features a great story on Bell’s early experience in training camp overseas. First, here’s a quick description of the KHL style of play.

“I haven’t had the four-a-day workouts, the one-hour bag skates of pulling tires and things that some of the others have to go through,” Bell says.

“I talked to Marty St. Pierre (of Embrun) the other night, he’s over here as well (with Neftekhimik). He had one practice where there were tractor tires on the ice, and players on top of them and you had to pull them up and down the ice.”

[snip]

“There’s lots of skill. Even the fourth-line guys are very skilled. There are no big hits because the ice is so big, and there’s so much room out there.”

“The pace is very, very high. There’s not a lot of dumping the puck, everybody is constantly moving. Everybody is always swinging, guys are darting in and out of holes. So, as a defender, you’ve got to be very aware of what’s going on around you, and as an offensive player, you’ve got to be very creative.”

In many cases, the toughest adjustment for a player in a foreign country (whether it be a European assimilating to North American hockey or vice versa) is breaking the language barrier. Bell says that Jaromir Jagr has been a big help in that process, showing him where the good restaurants are and generally “acting like a kid.” Whether it’s fooling around by making STD jokes at a clinic or showing his obsession with hockey by skating on off-days, the former NHL scoring leader has left quite the impression on Bell.

While Bell has had a few “what have I gotten myself into?” moments – particularly in noting a sharp difference between the middle class and lower class in the geographically isolated Russian region – it seems like Bell is enjoying his time in the KHL. So far, at least.

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    ‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

    DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Glen Gulutzan of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on November 21, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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    The Battle of Alberta was a tad lopsided Saturday.

    The Edmonton Oilers scored early. They scored often. And despite holding a distinct advantage in shots on goal and puck possession, the rival Calgary Flames couldn’t get much going until the third period and by then the damage had been done.

    The Oilers, tied in points with the San Jose Sharks, are one point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead after their 7-3 win over the Flames. Laurent Brossoit also collected his first career NHL victory.

    This game wasn’t even six minutes old when Jordan Eberle scored to give Edmonton a three-goal lead. Chad Johnson was promptly pulled from the Calgary net, making one save on four shots faced.

    The Flames were bad from the start. They didn’t get any better in the second period, falling behind five goals after 40 minutes and watching as the likes of Eberle and Connor McDavid piled on for a regular-season series sweep of Calgary.

    Flames coach Glen Gulutzan had some strong words to describe the play of his team, which still holds down a wild card spot in the West.

    “It’s embarrassing,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “Our resolve to stick to it wasn’t there.”

    “That’s a bunch of games in a row now where we’ve fallen behind and haven’t been able to get any push-back. And in our rink, it’s unacceptable,” added Mark Giordano.

    The coach was utterly perplexed by his team’s breakdown on Edmonton’s third goal, which started off as a rush in the neutral zone and finished with Eberle, wide open down the right wing with a clear path to the net, beating Johnson on the shot.

    “I don’t know what we were doing,” said Gulutzan. “I actually have no explanation for what our ‘D’ were doing on the third goal. It was a complete mistake.”

    That should be concerning for the Flames.

    They hold a playoff spot, but just barely with the Vancouver Canucks one point back and with two games in hand.

    Talk about a Wild comeback for Minnesota

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    The Minnesota Wild took back sole possession of the lead in the Central Division, thanks to a thrilling comeback win over the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

    Minnesota trailed 3-1 early in the second period. Jason Zucker closed the deficit in the middle period, before they took the lead for good thanks to a frenzy of three goals from Erik Haula, Ryan Suter and Zucker in 1:59 late in regulation for a 5-3 victory.

    “When we came in in between the second and third, knowing we were only down a goal, and knowing our history, we didn’t think we were out of it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Pioneer Press.

    And so the Wild remain one of the hottest teams in the league, leading Chicago by two points.

    While it’s a comeback for them, the Ducks don’t quite see it the same way.

    “It’s not what they did, to be honest. We self-imploded. Gave up too many opportunities, left our goalie out to dry,” said Cam Fowler.

    Additional bad news for the Ducks, however, was that goalie John Gibson left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, and didn’t return.

     

    Bust a move: Capitals win includes unlikely OT hero and dad’s dancing in Dallas

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    The usual suspects contributed for the Washington Capitals on Saturday. Down a pair of goals entering the third period, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie helped ignite the comeback on the power play.

    But then an unlikely hero emerged.

    Jay Beagle scored his 10th goal of the season and the overtime winner to give Washington a 4-3 victory over the Dallas Stars. That aforementioned goal total matches his previous career high from two seasons ago.

    He initially accomplished the feat over the course of 62 games. This time, he hits 10 goals in 46 games played.

    Officials needed to review the play, although replays quickly showed the puck over the line from the Beagle shot in the slot.

    The comeback win led to a memorable post-game celebration.

    Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home.

    The Capitals maintain their lead in the Metropolitan Division ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    This game versus the Stars included some feisty moments, particularly in the first period when tempers boiled over. Tom Wilson and Brett Ritchie dropped the gloves for a lengthy fight. Three seconds later, Daniel Winnik fought Antoine Roussel.

    Ducks goalie Gibson leaves game versus Wild with upper-body injury

    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 01:  Goaltender John Gibson #36 of the Anaheim Ducks in action during the preseason NHL game against Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 1, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) Anaheim goaltender John Gibson has left Saturday’s game against Minnesota with an upper-body injury.

    A short-angle shot from Mikko Koivu appeared to hit Gibson in the upper chest with 5:39 to play in the first period. The goaltender immediately went down on one knee and was quickly attended to by a trainer. Gibson gingerly skated to the bench and went straight to the locker room.

    Anaheim announced that Gibson is doubtful to return.

    Gibson is 7-1-1 with two shutouts in his past nine starts. He was replaced by Jonathan Bernier.

    Gibson stopped four of five shots he faced while making his fourth straight start.