It’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.”
“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.
These are not the best of times for Florida.
Just weeks removed from the controversial firing of head coach Gerard Gallant — and having sputtered to a 1-1-2 record under new bench boss Tom Rowe — the Panthers got more bad news on Tuesday, as Rowe ruled out d-man Keith Yandle “for a while,” after Yandle suffered a lower-body injury in Boston on Monday night (per ESPN).
Yandle, the prized piece of an offseason blueline rebuild, has played a significant role for the Panthers this year.
He sits second on the team in ice time — trailing only Aaron Ekblad — and his offensive production has been vital. The 30-year-old sits second on the team in assists, with 11, and is the top point-getter among Florida’s defensemen.
By missing tonight’s game in Philly, Yandle also loses out on a personal milestone.
He had played the previous 577 games — the 10th-longest ironman streak in NHL history — and was within spitting distance of becoming one of just nine players to have appeared in 600 consecutive contests.
With Yandle out, Florida could bring Dylan McIlrath into the blueline mix. He’s only appeared in one game for the Panthers since being acquired from the Rangers — a 6-1 loss to Toronto back in mid-November.
And the Yandle injury isn’t the only one Florida’s currently dealing with. Jonathan Marchessault missed the B’s game with a lower-body ailment, and d-man Alex Petrovic is out after undergoing ankle surgery. The Panthers, of course, are also without star forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who hasn’t played at all this year due to a lacerated Achilles.
It hasn’t been the easiest year for Senators forward Curtis Lazar.
After sticking in the NHL for his first two pro seasons, Lazar began the 2016-17 campaign in the minors. That’s a pretty big step back for the former 17th overall pick in 2013.
The 21-year-old managed to earn a call up back in November, but there’s now some more adversity for him to face.
Lazar suffered a an upper-body injury in last night’s 8-5 loss to the Penguins and although we don’t know how long he’ll be out, we do know he’ll miss some time, as he’s out indefinitely.
He appeared to be injured after being on the receiving end of a hit by Pens defenseman Brian Dumoulin. It was a hit that Sens play-by-play announcer described as being “from behind”.
With Craig Anderson also leaving the team to head back to Ottawa, the Sens were forced to recall forward Phil Varone and goalie Andrew Hammond from the minors.
Ottawa has three games remaining on their four-game road trip. They’ll take on the Sharks on Wednesday, the Kings on Saturday and the Ducks on Sunday.
With Corey Crawford now on the shelf, the ‘Hawks will turn to Scott Darling as their starter. But new backup goalie Lars Johansson is a bit of an unknown. This is the 29-year-old’s first year in North America and he could get his first taste of NHL action. “If something were to happen (to Darling), absolutely I would be nervous, as excited for any new thing in my career,” Johansson said. (Chicago Tribune)
–Paul Maurice had some interesting comments about his former goalies Vesa Toskala and Andrew Raycroft. Maurice said that those goalies didn’t give him a very good shot to win in the shootout. (Sportsnet)
–How has the goalie position changed over the years? The Hockey News sat down with current and former NHL goalies, as well as some goalie coaches. “If I still played the way I did back in the day, I wouldn’t be in the NHL anymore. You have to evolve with the time and the position and the new techniques that come out every year,” said Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo. (The Hockey News)
–The New York Post looks back at former Rangers captain Vic Hadfield’s famous smile at the Spectrum in 1974. Hadfield explained that he wasn’t actually happy at the time because his team was on the verge of being eliminated by the Philadelphia Flyers. (NY Post)
–Tyler Murovich of the Atlanta Gladiators (ECHL) was suspended 12 games for this reckless hit on Anthony Calabrese of the Norfolk Admirals. (Yahoo)
–This youth hockey player had an emotional celebration after he scored during the intermission of the Caps game on Monday:
The Boston Bruins are expected to be without forward Matt Beleskey for the next six weeks because of a right knee injury.
That update came from the Bruins on Monday. Boston was victorious over the Florida Panthers in overtime, but Beleskey wasn’t in the lineup.
The Bruins have now won three in a row and four of their last five games.
Beleskey suffered the injury in a collision in the neutral zone with Taylor Fedun during Saturday’s game. He left the game and didn’t return, after his knee drove into the hip of Fedun as the Sabres defenseman pivoted.
In 24 games with the Bruins this season, Beleskey has two goals and five points.