Nail Yakupov has fired the first shot in advance of Russia’s game with Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships.
“I understand that I will have to keep a cool head and ignore provocations. Especially against the Canadians,” Yakupov told Russian media outlet R-Sport. “These guys play dirty. We got used to that, we played a few games in the North America, so our team is ready.”
Yakupov’s referring to November’s Subway Super Series, which pitted his Russian junior team against a series of CHL all-star sides from the Quebec, Ontario and Western leagues.
The Russians were involved in a number of physical, whistle-filled affairs on the trip. The opening game against the QMJHL featured 76 penalty minutes and, in the second game against the OHL, Yakupov was hammered by Plymouth forward Tom Wilson, one of the last cuts from the Canadian team.
Yakupov’s “dirty” comment will draw plenty of attention with Team Canada in the midst of controversy regarding its aggressive play.
Forward Boone Jenner was suspended three games after charging Swedish defenseman Jesper Pettersson in an exhibition game (Pettersson will miss the tourney with a dislocated shoulder and fractured wrist.)
Meanwhile, head coach Steve Spott is visibly concerned with his team’s discipline…or lack thereof.
“We’re taking too many penalties,” Spott said after exhibitions against Sweden and Finland. “That’s an area that we have to continue to improve at because we’re just putting our penalty killers on the ice way too much and there are some elite players that are sitting.”
Russia will take on Canada on Dec. 31, the last game of the group stage.