July 1, 2008
The Binghamton Senators locked up their enforcer for 2 years and provided Ottawa with a possible replacement for departed Brian McGratton.
Yablonski, 28, said he and Ottawa officials closed in on a deal “over the last couple days,” and he said the fact the big club traded enforcer Brian McGrattan to Phoenix last Wednesday was a factor in his decision to return.
“With Grattsy gone, hopefully I’ll get a chance, even if they’ve got to call me up here and there, just to step in and do the job,” said Yablonski, explaining he felt better suited as a heavyweight than a player like a Neil.
“He can fight the big guys. It’s nothing against Neil; he’s a tough guy. But he’s not a guy that can go night after night and fight the big boys like Grattsy or like myself.”
To that end, Yablonski has stayed sharp this summer in the fighting department. A week ago Saturday, in Boise, Idaho, he captured the Championship Cage Fighting series’ heavyweight title, winning his fight by knockout in less than 90 seconds.
I find it promising that Binghamton and Ottawa are signing fan favorites to multi-year deals. We now know we will have a core of Hamel, Yabo, Matt Carkner, and Greg Mauldin for 2 years. With a couple more quality free agents and talented prospects, this team might make it to the playoffs again.
December 7, 2007
ThirtyFive has Nikulin’s latest blog entry.
My second game in the National Hockey League was against Philadelphia, though I can’t brag about it. I played just over four minutes and simply didn’t have time to do anything. Although I already was feeling a lot more confident. But I wasn’t given a chance, even though I thought I was doing okay. Prior to the game I was a little anxious, of course, especially after such an unlucky first game, but I wasn’t panicked.
The next day I worked at practice, and then met up with Ottawa’s GM Bryan Murray. He explained that I was going back to Binghamton. But I stayed in Ottawa two more days. Problems with the US visa arose, and a team representative was helping me extend it. Didn’t feel like going out, so whenever I had free time I stayed in the hotel. They didn’t send me to Binghamton in a limousine, but still a nice car. To be honest, for the kind of hockey I displayed they could’ve sent me back on a public bus.
I’ve thought a lot about my recall to Ottawa. In the first game I certainly gave into emotions. As I talked about before, I just “burned out” and wasn’t able to show everything I was capable of. And in the second game I played too little. I believe I just need time and trust for adaptation. I experienced the same in the AHL and now feel confident in the new league. But in Ottawa I had no room for error, which is difficult for any rookie.
I can’t say there were certain things I couldn’t do. Speed in the NHL is not faster than in the AHL. The main difference is the puck-handling technique, higher performance skill. They make very few mistakes.
I’m hoping they’ll give me one more chance this season. I know what to work on, what to do to raise the bar. And in the future everything will depend on my game. But nevertheless I received a good lesson. The callup to the NHL and the return to Binghamton is a great psychological endurance test. Obviously, I didn’t want to go back. And at first I felt ill at ease. Wasn’t upset with anyone, but I won’t lie, I was disappointed. Everything is fine now.
They love the game in Ottawa. Everyone says hockey is a religion in Canada, and having been there during the regular season I will agree. Sold-out arenas, lots of people after the game. Although I have a feeling that the same people are asking for autographs. But we don’t deny anybody.
The defenseman Anton Volchenkov got injured. But I’m not surprised. He blocks all the shots! Not afraid of anything! He acts selflessly. By the way, we had dinner together when I was up with the team, we talked. I’m wishing Anton a speedy recovery.
I’m back in the apartment I was renting with Ilja Zubov. Thankfully he hadn’t rented my room out, left everything as it was. Thank you, Ilja. I got right back to work. The very first game upon returning I played very well against Bridgeport, where our team won 4-0, and I scored a goal and had three assists. Two days later I received another point.
I was put right back into the first line, and overall I’m spending a lot of time on the ice. I’m playing not just the first but also the third line. I don’t go out in penalty-killing situations, but I’m constantly out for power-plays. Intensive game experience won’t hurt.
November 23, 2007
Honestly, I don’t really want to talk about such an NHL debut. That wasn’t how I’d imagined it. I can’t be proud of my actions against the Penguins. However, I’ll try to push away everything negative, come to some conclusions, and try my hardest next game to display everything I’m capable of.
But let’s start from the beginning. A day before the next AHL game, around 8 PM, Ilja Zubov, my Binghamton teammate and roommate, got a call. It was someone from the Senators. Asked to relay to me that I’m being called up to Ottawa.
They sent a limousine to Binghamton to pick me up. A real one, long and black. To tell the truth, I was completely shocked. What class! Drove to the arena, gathered the equipment, then got back to the apartment, and after that went on to Ottawa.
I got to the hotel only at 3 in the morning, and at 8 I was already up. The morning skate prior to the Pittsburgh game was starting. The guys received me well. We greeted each other, everybody was smiling. I exchanged a few phrases with the coach. He asked me simple questions in English, asking how the farm team was doing, how I was doing.
As far as I can tell, my call-up was due to an injury to Patrick Eaves. It’s something serious with his shoulder, and he’s out for a long time. I myself was almost taken out of the game during the pre-game warm-up. There was a moment when a puck deflected off a goalpost and hit me in the jaw. Thankfully, it didn’t result in a fracture. Just a swelling and the teeth hurt a bit.
But, of course, this accident didn’t cause my unimpressive performance. I don’t even know what happened. Maybe I just burned out. It’s hard to understand what came over me. But I’m not happy with my game. We didn’t have any opportunities to score, and the team was scored on twice with me on the ice.
The first one is definitely my fault. Evgeni Malkin beat me and put it in the net. But the second one was from the blue line, I couldn’t get in front of it. At any rate, I didn’t get on the ice in the third period at all, and played only 5 minutes 49 seconds in my first game. My linemates were Antoine Vermette and Chris Kelly. We took the opening faceoff, but we’re really the third line.
Anything memorable during the game? Not really. The crowd probably liked the course of the game. Ten goals were scored, plus the shootout, too. Of course, I didn’t participate in the shootout, the team has plenty of experts without me.
There was a fight, Georges Laraque himself was battling. But I wasn’t paying attention to that. At one time Sergei Gonchar pasted me hard to the boards. I didn’t get a chance to respond, there was no opportunity.
All in all, not the best of moods. But there is time before the next game to collect myself. On Friday we didn’t have a practice on the ice, just the gym for those that wanted it. And on Saturday a game against Philadelphia. I’m hoping it will be successful for me and the team.
November 22, 2007
I don’t even know what’s happening with us. We’ve lost five of the last six games. Interestingly, there hasn’t been much cause for the hard luck. We didn’t become softer, didn’t start playing worse. But the puck is not going in the net, and all the problems are because of that. Because of that we’ve lost confidence. We make too many mistakes in our zone.
It’s hard to fault anyone. The goalies make the saves and give us a chance, but still the opposition’s scoring percentage is much higher. I don’t even know how to explain it. At least we beat Pittsburgh’s farm team in the last game. It’s likely that the opponent, a very capable group, didn’t prepare for us. Just looked at our stats.
There are meetings without the coaches and with them, a psychiatrist even came to us. Obviously, I didn’t really understand him, but the guys said he didn’t say any magic words. Only saying that we need to believe in our strengths, keep the spirits up. Interestingly, after this we lost another two games.
Our coach even cancelled one practice. The whole team went bowling. Unlike with golf, where I couldn’t find any bearings, here I was in my element. Ilja Zubov got the first place in the team championship, and I placed second.
The schedule is rather dense here, even in the NHL it’s not so difficult. We had four games in a week. And on the road, too. It’s not really a big distance to travel, but you still need to recover. In Russia I’d gotten used to the sauna and a cold pool. There’s a reason they use these methods during our season. But in my present club there’s nothing like that. In Ottawa, though, they had all of this.
My injury’s healed, there are no problems, although I’m not very happy with my game. In one game I scored two goals, but had many more opportunities. I certainly have to work on the execution.
There are also purely tactical problems. I haven’t fully adapted to the AHL, haven’t fully grasped the strategy, and make mistakes in certain situations. For example, on defense. Sometimes I would skate somewhere where I’m not supposed to be.
In light of this I don’t even want to recall my goals. Although the second one was pretty good. This is my best goal across the ocean yet. I don’t celebrate the goals somehow distinctively. Don’t jump on the glass, don’t imitate a swimmer. Just like always, I raise the hands, the guys skate up, congratulate me, and then I high-five those that were on the bench.
Speaking about my stats, I don’t really pay too much attention to them. But I know I’m second in scoring. Though, like I said, could be better. Not too satisfied with my plus/minus, which is even.
All coaches mix lines when a team is losing. We’re no exception. I’ve spent a few games with Nick Foligno, who was sent down from Ottawa. But then we went back to the original lines.
P.S.: I have been called up to the Ottawa Senators. All the details later. Thank you all for believing in me.
November 16, 2007
My main activity outside of hockey is studying English. Ilja Zubov and I still go to the lessons like clockwork. And, I must say, there is noticeable progress. I can already exchange a few phrases with my teammates. They help me, by the way. They make an effort to say words slowly so that I can understand everything. And I respond. Though I still don’t understand the coach’s pre-game speeches. On the other hand, he says the same things every time. Everything’s clear without translation.
The atmosphere within the team is good. There was a team dinner. Binghamton took part in a charitable affair. Threw paint all over the ice. To be honest, I didn’t get the point. Though it was clear it was a benefit for children from an orphanage. And I got the paint all over me, although, thankfully, it washes off easily.
And in other news: Ilja Zubov and I have moved to an apartment. We’re sharing the rent. Big hall, two bedrooms, kitchen. If anyone’s wondering, it’s $850 a month. Prices are incomparable with Moscow’s. We have some guys that rent houses for $1,500.
What’s better in an apartment? You can cook something. But it’s mostly me around the kitchen. I can make borsch, fried eggs, spaghetti. And Ilja Zubov can’t cook. And can’t help out in the kitchen at all. Nothing to hide here.
The apartment is close to all the supermarkets. But totally empty. It only came with beds and a refrigerator. Had to buy everything ourselves, from bed sheets to spoons and forks. However, that’s normal. Several guys rented furniture, bought TVs.
We have a TV, but we don’t watch it. We’re waiting for the cable to be installed. We’ve set up an appointment, but the technician still hasn’t come. Though there wouldn’t be any Russian channels anyway. We aren’t hiring a maid, we’re keeping it clean ourselves. No problems with that.
I heard that the soccer season in Russia is over. And Zenit is the champion. Amazing! Though I haven’t followed the playoffs, don’t even know how anything transpired. I’m not crazy about soccer, I could watch Barcelona, maybe. Plus, in America you stop being used to soccer. They show some highlights on TV here, only rarely.
Ilja Zubov finally bought a car. A Porsche, but not new, though in great condition. We drove to New York City, met Gennadiy Ushakov, the agent. It’s a four-hour drive to New York City. We even encountered a deer on the way, running by calmly. Cool.
New York shocked me. I think even Moscow traffic is more peaceful. Or did we just catch the rush hour? Noise, clatter, signals everywhere, everyone’s running, cutting everybody off. Same thing in Moscow on Tverskaya at 6 PM. Anyway, drove to the airport and back. Didn’t see the city. And we’re not likely to go back, too far away.
You have to relish the off days. Recently we had a day free of practice. We went to visit Zubov’s relatives. Ilja’s sister is married to an American, they live here. We spent the evening with them.
Looks like slowly but surely things are moving along with my girlfriend Natasha’s visa. It’s a real hassle here with paperwork, but we’ve straightened it out now, sent off the necessary forms. I hope they give her the visa.
Our leisure time hasn’t changed. Practice, lunch, nap, dinner. Now we have road games close by. In the morning we skate on our own ice, then board the bus and drive to the game. Afterwards back in the bus and home.
Ilja and I wanted to go to the movies. However, looks like there’s no theater in our town. We searched but didn’t find one. And the guys on the team couldn’t remember if there are any in Binghamton. Just amazing.
November 13, 2007
A few games ago I was injured. I was about to pull off a wrist shot at the net, raised the stick, and was hit in the back. To be honest, I barely finished that game.
For the next game it seemed like the pain dulled, and I was on the ice again. But during the game I unfortunately collided with an opposing player and fell awkwardly on that very spot where I was hit.
Sharp pain; I couldn’t breathe. Turned out to be damaged ligaments. I couldn’t finish that second game, and went to the locker room.
I only missed two games and then was back on the ice. Through the pain, through the uncomfortable feelings, but I went for it. Interestingly, they don’t give you anesthetic shots here like they usually do in Russia. How do they treat you? With massage. No pills, nothing. When I decided to resume playing, they wrapped the damaged area and off I went onto the ice.
Nobody rushed me into coming back. But they asked, of course, if I could play. Once I declined, because I couldn’t even make one good stride. Let alone shooting or physical play. Inhuman pain. I was even taken for an x-ray. They thought it could be a broken rib. But, thankfully that didn’t prove true. Only the damaged ligaments. Still, I didn’t miss practice. I skated individually.
Now I’m fine. Obviously, some discomfort remains, but I want to play so badly and not sit in the stands. Especially since Ottawa’s general manager Bryan Murray came to watch us. Not like there was anything to see. We haven’t scored a goal in the last three games.
But I can’t say we’ve been playing worse. We just can’t score, that’s all. Plenty of good moments in each game. I hit a post in the last game against Philadelphia. Just bad luck.
During the time off with the injury I was watching the games from the stands with the other players who weren’t dressed. I have to say our team is looking good, which means that these bad breaks are temporary. Without me Binghamton won two games, once coming back to win after being down by two goals. It was interesting to watch, too. Very dynamic hockey in the AHL.
But it’s a wholly different thing to watch a game from the stands. You want to take part. Another reason I sped up my return to the ice was the realization that it would be tough for me to get back into the rhythm. Even after two games it felt difficult, but if I were to take it easy I’d spend more time later getting back into the lineup.
The injury didn’t change my place on the team. I’m on the first line. I’m playing the same minutes as before. But the partners sometimes change. On the one wing it’s always Denis Hamel, but on the other it was Greg Mauldin the last game. Now, if we could only score.
Though I haven’t noticed any nervousness due to the losing. The coach is calm, and the guys also realize we need to fix things. We had a players meeting where the veterans spoke out. We talked, analyzed mistakes. We weren’t spared the slogans, but I think even without them everyone realizes that it can’t go on like this. Mainly it was Amadio and Dimitrakos who spoke. And others over 25 years old.
Now that I’m completely used to the team, I’ll say that our group is fine. Oleg Saprykin was talking as if everyone’s by themselves in Ottawa, nobody to talk to. But I don’t have these problems. And when you have a good group of players, then the wins will come.
October 30, 2007
ThirtyFive has the latest Nikulin Blog translation.
Danny Bois and Greg Amadio, my teammates, are renting a house together. And they decided to invite Ilja Zubov and me over. Asked us what we’d like to eat. We chose beef and shrimp. The guys said okay, and set the time.
Had a good time, a good meal, and watched hockey together. Ilja was more involved in conversation. After all, he has a better grasp on English. I tried saying some things, didn’t shy away, but it’s not coming out that well yet. But we’ve established normal relationships with all the guys on the team.
I was told that during some teams’ practices sometimes even fights happen. We don’t have that. Why do they mostly occur? Somebody played someone else too harshly. Or shot the goalie in the mask, for example. But you come up and apologize, and everything’s fine.
I’m studying English. Remember I was saying how we went to the English lessons and didn’t like it much? Well, it’s all right now. We’re going to the same place, we have no complaints now. We’re being taught what we need. They make us learn a phrase, first by speaking it, then explaining its meaning.
Trying to learn how to write and read. I’m having an easier time reading. They don’t write much about the team here. Well, just report news. By the way, when we arrived in Binghamton the local newspaper printed our photo on the first page. I didn’t save the newspaper, but Ilja Zubov has a copy somewhere. And recently they wrote that a tough guy from the big team we sent down to us. He’s got an arm injury, and he’s recuperating here.
And from our team two guys were sent away, Tomas Kudelka and Jim McKenzie. It happened so fast. They were called in, something was explained to them, and they were gone. For the practice the guys weren’t there. At first I didn’t even notice their absence. Ilja Zubov told me about this later.
Also I want to get back to our trip to Norfolk, the farthest for our team. I have to say, we never even saw our baggage. We don’t carry it around, don’t do anything with it. We get to the locker room, all the stuff is ready. Amazing.
The days are still monotonous. Practice. Then sleep. We go out for dinner someplace, for lunch. But no real entertainment. With my first paycheck that I received October 15 I bought an iPhone. That’s all I really need. Speaking of which, the next payday is October 30. Do I need to say that there are no delays here?
We watch television. Not too closely, it’s there in the background. Although whenever baseball starts, we turn it off. It’s a very boring game. But we do watch football. I still haven’t picked a team for which I could root. I watch impartially. Read news on the Internet, and that’s about it. Whatever is happening in the country, aside from hockey, doesn’t interest me. Why should I worry about unnecessary problems?
My favorite thing to do now is practice. I await them and always participate with great attitude. It’s interesting to me. To be honest, I get a little sad when the practice is over.
I was told they don’t like Russians in the Ottawa system. They were scaring me with this when I was going over. But I have noticed nothing of the sort. You play, you give it your all, and people have an excellent attitude towards you. Perhaps someone had different situations. But I’m happy with everything. The only thing remaining is making it to the NHL.
October 26, 2007
Good article in todays paper reporting on Cody Bass’ progress and his role in the organization.
As a minor hockey player in Guelph, Ontario, Bass said he was putting up 65, 70, 80 points a season. But his role changed, he said, when as a 15 year-old he moved on to the Junior B level, where he arrived to find his team already stocked with scorers like future Cornell standout Matt Moulson.
“I went into that league, and I tried to do stuff that I was trying to do in minor hockey, but I couldn’t do it,” Bass said.
“And then Ken Cook, my coach, just put me in a role where I was an energy guy. And I just started finishing checks, and that’s the way I came into that role.”
It’s a role he’s clearly embraced — “I love to finish checks,” he said. “I love to rough it up here and there” — and he points to the likes of Mike Fisher, Chris Neil and Chris Kelly in Ottawa, or even a Kris Draper in Detroit as players he now looks up to.
“I see him as a role player. I see him as an important guy,” Ottawa assistant general manager Tim Murray said. “You hope he can get to something (like) a Chris Kelly-type player — where the coach has lots of confidence in you and has no problem putting you on the ice in all situations.”
Murray said Ottawa officials are looking for Bass to spend his time in Binghamton continuing to kill penalties, win faceoffs and serve as a two-way center, while refining his offensive game and proving he can be a “hard guy to play against.”
October 26, 2007
Michael Sharp is reporting that Mattias Karlsson is returning to Sweden. Hope to get more info later.
Defenseman Mattias Karlsson is returning to Sweden on Friday morning, B-Sens executive vice president of operations Tom Mitchell confirmed Thursday, and it’s my understanding the decision was made by Ottawa officials. Sens assistant GM Tim Murray is scheduled to be in town this weekend, so I hope to report back soon on how this decision came to be made.
He also gets more details on Carkner’s potential switch from defense to forward.
Thursday after practice, both Carkner and B-Sens coach Cory Clouston downplayed the move — at least for the time being.
“We’ll see,” Clouston said. “We’ll play it by ear. I mean, we’ve got to do what’s right for the individual, but we’ve also got to do what’s right for the team and the organization. And there’s a balance there. And … he may get the odd shift on the weekend up (at) forward, but again, we’ll have to wait and see.”
If Carkner does in fact return this weekend — he’s been out since breaking his left hand in Ottawa’s first preseason game — he’ll do so initially on defense, where’s he’s been practicing with the B-Sens this week.
“(In Ottawa), I’ve just been trying to take pucks coming off the boards and clearing them, trying to do a few forward things, because it might play with that idea this year,” Carkner said. “Because I’m a big, physical guy, and maybe I can benefit the team being a forward.”
He added: “My position is defense right now, and that’s what I’m going to be playing. But, once in a while, you may see me pop up on the front end. I’m not sure how serious that is right now, but I definitely have to get some practice in before that happens.”
October 26, 2007
Thanks again to ThirtyFive for the latest translation.
As it was explained to me, the road trip to Norfolk was the farthest for our team. It really did take a long time getting there, 9 hours. But I must admit everything went much easier than I anticipated. The bus had all the amenities, even wireless Internet. And after all, the roads in the US are much better than even in Moscow, to say nothing of the rest of Russia. Because of that the trip went by unnoticeably. We made just one stop at a McDonald’s, where I bought something to eat.
I’m not a big fan of looking out windows, so I can’t share much about the views. I watched movies, played computer games, browsed the Internet, slept. We arrived at our destination around 10 PM and right away checked into a hotel.
Perhaps it was the road, or something else happened, but we were a totally different team in the first game. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I personally played my worst game. I think we somehow weren’t prepared. We could do absolutely nothing. The legs did not move. You seem to make one stride, but then the legs block up. And our goalie didn’t have the best night. Anyway, I want to forget that game as quickly as possible.
But the second game turned out quite differently. We were probably angry after losing 5-1. And the opponent relaxed after an easy win. But it’s not like we had nothing to do with the success. We played a totally different game. And Norfolk is a good team. Tall defensemen, and just the whole team is very big. The forwards are technical. I liked the opposition.
By the way, these two games for Binghamton I spent on the same line. We are the first line with Danny Bois and Denis Hamel. We spend approximately 20 minutes on the ice. Our line has been the most successful thus far. Bois has five points in five games, I have four, and Hamel has three.
Do I get tired? I wouldn’t say I do, not too much. Disregarding the first game against Norfolk, where I felt exhausted after each stride, I have enough strength. But you definitely tire a lot more here than you do in the Russian Superleague. But honestly, it’s hard to compare like that. Russia has larger rinks, a wholly different type of hockey, space to skate. You skate less here, but it’s very intense. You must constantly hit your opponent and they hit you all the time. But I feel that we have a very strong team, although I’ve seen little of others. If we can avoid such setbacks like with Norfolk, then everything will be all right.
There’s no news from Ottawa. Nobody says anything. But it’s not customary to discuss that here. Anything can happen at any moment. They’ll say “get ready”, and you’ll be going up to the big team. But I’m very happy with how Ottawa is performing in the regular season. Taking out anyone who’s in their way.
By the way, a physical trainer from the Senators came to our club. The main team had four days off, and he spent a few training sessions with us. We did coordination exercises. Did things we didn’t do before. For example, running with a parachute on the back. It must be noted that that’s rather difficult.
I also want to mention that I really miss my parents, friends, my girlfriend Natasha. Even though she’s supposed to come over, there are certain difficulties with obtaining an American visa. She was already denied once. Maybe somebody at the US embassy reads this blog, or people that are in that field? Hopefully, they could help.