Vladimir Tarasenko, whose long-awaited debut for the Saint Louis Blues has fallen victim to the NHL lockout, touched down in Saint Petersburg on Monday afternoon and was whisked straight from Pulkovo airport to the SKA office.
It took less than a quarter of an hour for the forward to sign his second contract with the club and be photographed in the SKA jersey, to share his thoughts on his return with the assembled journalists.
Was the decision to return a hard one to make?
“Yes, it wasn’t an easy decision, but first of all I’m very grateful to the club for giving me this chance to play once again in front of Russian fans. The set-up here suits me fine and I’m very glad that I came.”
And what obstacles and difficulties were in the way?
“There never were any. Both sides reached a mutual agreement; in just the usual professional process. Most of these reports are nonsense, with no substance in them.”
Who could possibly gain by spreading false reports around the hockey world?
“I don’t know. To be honest, it’s not something I care about right now. Because all the decisions have been taken and all that is behind me.”
Are you all ready to go into battle?
“Yes, I just have the medical tomorrow. I think on Thursday I’ll already be training with the team.”
How fit are you at the moment?
“I feel completely ready. I’ve been training for a long time, about a month.”
Were you prepared to play in the AHL?
“For me, the priority was to play here. Everything has pretty much worked out the way I wanted.”
When you left to join the NHL, some people believed it would be hard for you to adapt to America after Novosibirsk…
“I’d like to say to those people that Novosibirsk is not the backwater they imagine it to be. There are no bears prowling the streets; it’s a very modern city. People from Moscow or Petersburg who visit Novosibirsk really like the place. So there were no real problems with moving, to the US or to here.”
So you settled in OK at St. Louis?
“Yes, they gave me a very warm welcome, and what’s more, there were two other Russian guys there – Sergei Andronov and Zhenya Grachyov – who helped me out a bit. I had no problems.”
Have you kept in touch with any SKA players?
“Yes, with the ones I played alongside last season - Igor Makarov, Sasha Kucheryavenko, and many more, because we had a very friendly team last year and many of the guys gave me support when I arrived, and now they’ve been writing to me, saying they’re waiting for my return.”
Do you already have a view on which attacking trio you’ll join?
“That’s not a question for me to answer. I only flew in today.”
Does it give you added motivation having a star like Ilya Kovalchuk in the team?
“I think it motivates everyone. And I’ll add that this was one of the factors behind my decision to return here, because to play in the same side as someone of his quality is every young hockey player’s dream. I’m glad it has come true.”
How much time will you need to settle in the team and adapt to your team mates’ play?
“I can tell you I’ll need two or three days to adapt to the time difference. As for the style of play, I can’t really say. I hope I’ll adapt very fast.”
Evgeny Dabizha, special to khl.ru