Lev of Prague will play today its first ever official game in the KHL Championship, at home in the Czech capital against Dinamo Riga. On the eve of his team’s long-awaited debut, Lev’s head coach Jozef Jandac shared his thoughts with the KHL press service.
How do rate your team’s readiness for the season?
“In the summer we played ten games and won seven, but of course, we know only too well that action in the KHL will be at a much higher level. During our preseason trip to Switzerland we had two games, against Lugano and Biel, but unfortunately for us the performances from our opponents were very weak (Lev won 7-3 and 9-1) and so those games were of no real use to our preparations. But the tournament in Donetsk matched us up against teams from the KHL, and they really highlighted our mistakes. That was a useful tournament for us.”
What can you tell us about the KHL teams you’ve already faced?
“We had two games against Severstal and we won them both, but I can’t say we were clearly stronger than them. We lost to Donbass in the Donetsk tournament, and I put that down to us playing twice in two days, which made it hard for us to match our opponents for pace. Donbass have two very formidable lines: the one with the Finns, Tuppurainen – Virtanen – Kiiskinen, and also the Pettersson – Kaspar – Dadonov line. These are very high caliber players. The Donetsk guys gave us plenty of problems. And SKA is one of the strongest teams in the KHL, as we can confirm after a very tough game against them, although I’m glad that we held our own against such a team and in the end we dug out what was a creditable result for us. We were leading 2-0 in the first period but then allowed three quick goals in the second, so I’m happy that we were able to fight back and take the game to a shootout.”
Have you chosen all the players your main line-up yet?
“About 80% of them. But over the first few games of the season we’ll be trying to find the best combinations, and we have a new team, so I cannot rule out making quite a few changes to the roster from game to game.”
Will any of your players miss the start of the season through injury?
”Forward Juraj Mikus was injured playing for Slovakia in this year’s World Championships and he needed an operation. His recovery is quite quick, he’s already back in training, but I’m still not sure whether he’s ready to play the entire game. He had a few minutes of ice time against Avtomobilist in the Donbass Cup, but we don’t want to rush his return. The other guys are all fit and ready.”
Do you feel the excitement building in Prague before Lev’s first ever KHL game?
“In the Czech Republic hockey is the number one sport, so I really hope that we’ll get passionate support from the fans at the game. Although, to give you an accurate answer, I would need to have been in Prague and seen all that’s going on, but we’ve been away training for two months and only got back here on the night of September 1st. I want our fans to get behind us because we have a very tough season ahead of us. We’ll have 52 games in the regular season and if you have a disappointing start, it is very hard to make up that lost ground on your opponents. So for Lev, the play-offs really start on the 6th of September. My own children are desperate to see our first game, but it starts at eight in the evening, so I’m still undecided about bringing them along. But I will have about fifteen of my closest friends there, and they’ll be supporting me and my team. And if every fan brings fifteen of his friends to cheer us on, then we’ll even fill this big arena to the rafters.”
Vladimir Samokhin, special to khl.ru