1 Sep, Thu

Moscow (19:00)

2 Sep, Fri

Ekaterinburg (17:00)

2 Sep, Fri

Chelyabinsk (17:00)

2 Sep, Fri

Mytishchi (19:00)

2 Sep, Fri

Sochi (19:30)

3 Sep, Sat

Moscow (13:00)

3 Sep, Sat

Balashikha (14:00)

3 Sep, Sat

Minsk (16:30)

3 Sep, Sat

Saint Petersburg (17:00)

3 Sep, Sat

Moscow (17:00)

3 Sep, Sat

Nizhny Novgorod (18:00)

4 Sep, Sun

Ekaterinburg (14:30)

4 Sep, Sun

Chelyabinsk (14:30)

4 Sep, Sun

Mytishchi (17:00)

4 Sep, Sun

Sochi (17:00)

5 Sep, Mon

Balashikha (19:00)

5 Sep, Mon

Moscow (19:00)

5 Sep, Mon

Minsk (19:10)

5 Sep, Mon

Moscow (19:30)

5 Sep, Mon

Saint Petersburg (19:30)

AL: No—to be honest, I had signed [with Lokomotiv] before his name had even circled around. I was at the World Championships in Slovakia, and after a game the Swedish media told me that I had a new coach. When they told me it was MacTavish, I was happy and surprised. Normally you hear some names circling around, but that was not a decision when I signed.

GK: What was your reunion like? 

AL: I mean, I was still surprised! He’s a great person and I never had him as a coach. He was General Manager when I was [in Edmonton]. I really respect him, and he was really good to make the group tighter and play for each other.

Anton Lander. Credits: Yaroslav NeyelovAnton Lander. Credits: Yaroslav Neyelov
I think the big key, through the playoffs, was that we won 4-1 [twice] and got a lot of days between rounds to rest or even work harder. I thought I was more tired through the regular season than the playoffs—I think I’m talking for the whole team there. I don’t really have a moment where I felt like we could actually win. Every game was a new game, and we wanted to win that game. It didn’t matter who we played against.

GK: The added rest was great, but what defined that team’s success? 

AL: I would say how we played as a team, and of course our goaltender [Emil] Garipov. We played really tight and didn’t make many mistakes. One thing too—we scored the first goal in many games. We had a really good system and played tight. We were tough to beat when we got the first goal.

GK: Having been through a Gagarin Cup Final, do you think the current squad at Lokomotiv has what it takes to win? 

AL: That’s a big goal for every player on our team, I’m not going to lie about that. We have many steps we need to reach before we are there, but there is progress. We just need to get into the playoffs first of all. When the playoffs start, in my opinion, anything can happen. If you really believe it and you play really tight as a group, anything is possible. That’s the main goal for us, but it’s a process. 

GK: Mike Pelino recently stepped into the role of head coach, and it’s his first time leading a KHL squad. What is it like to play for him? 

AL: I don’t think you can tell that it is his first time as a head coach. He’s doing a great job. He knows how to reach out to players and tell them what they need to do. His practices are hard, and these days you need to have hard practices to get your body used to the high tempo of games. His key is really reaching out to every player.

GK: No small task, given how many nationalities and experience levels are represented in your locker room. 

AL: We have Denis Grebeshkov [also a former Edmonton Oiler] translating everything that Mike says. He does direct translations, and it’s sometimes funny for the Russian guys! Everyone knows that we are here to win hockey games. Different players, different ages…young, old, Swedish, French. It doesn’t matter; we are all here for one reason. If everyone is buying in, it doesn’t matter where you’re from.

Anton Lander after winning Gagarin Cup with Ak Bars. Credits: Vladimir BezzubovAnton Lander after winning Gagarin Cup with Ak Bars. Credits: Vladimir Bezzubov
AL: Kaprizov, obviously. I think he is unbelievable with finding the puck around the net. It’s not only luck—he is so good about putting himself in a position to score. I think he’s been doing that for many years, so he’s the one player that I need to say.

GK: Playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl carries an extra weight. The city and its fans live with the memory of that tragic plane crash in 2011. How do you keep the memory alive as a team? 

AL: At the beginning of the season—on the anniversary of the crash—we went to the memorial site. I had been there before, but being there as a player for the team…you thought a lot about it. It was both beautiful and hard at the same time to look at it. The moment was so sad, it’s tough to find words. There is nothing you can do—you learn to live with it. We do our best for the fans and the families, who really deserve it, to win hockey games. I think every player had some connection to one of the people on that [2011] team.

GK: You recently played Ak Bars for the first time since joining Lokomotiv. How was it? 

AL: Yesterday we played in Kazan, and I spent two years there. I took a moment to just enjoy being back. I was happy those two years…me and my family, we really like it here in Russia.

I was so focused to play good hockey, and it was a big game for us as a team. There were so many guys from Lokomotiv who played in Kazan—I think five guys. We were all happy to be back and were sad we didn’t get the result, but it was nice to play in that arena again. 

GK: Speaking of life in Russia, have you adapted to the local cuisine?

AL: I am really into borscht! That’s my number one soup now. [Laughs] I had chicken noodle before in America, but the borscht is number one these days.
Anton Lander. Credits: Yaroslav NeyelovAnton Lander. Credits: Yaroslav Neyelov
AL: I’d say Staffan is the sneakiest card player! He tries to trick you. But like I said, we’ve been playing a lot lately…so you know all of his tricks now.