Evgeni Kurbatov is a Russian defenseman who has gotten some consideration for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft as an overager. He played a solid WJC this winter, honoring the C on his chest fighting hard for his team who won the bronze medal. His play with HC Avangard Omsk has been solid despite being among the youngest on his team. This interview with Kurbatov took place just after his team had been eliminated from the playoff race by Dynamo Moscow.
HF: What are you doing now that the season is over?
EK: The main roster of Avangard isn’t training now. I’m working with the farm club. Now there is plenty of time to prepare myself.
HF: In the series against Dynamo, what didn’t work? Was the Dynamo team too strong for Avangard?
EK: I don’t think that Dynamo was better than us. Certainly we missed Chubarov and Kuryanov a lot. Many of our guys played with injuries. But even with such losses we had a competitive roster. I would say that it was a battle between teams of equal level, but what happened, happened.
HF: In the series with Dynamo you played against NHL veteran Daniil Markov, how does he look on the ice?
EK: He was one of the leaders of Dynamo as soon as he arrived on that team. Indisputably he’s a classy player. A great defender and a true fighter. And in the series against us he has confirmed his class.
HF: Have you tried to learn something while facing him?
EK: I really wanted to learn from him, but when you are on the ice you are only concentrated on the game and it’s complicated to follow anyone.
HF: In the fourth match you made a diagonal, beautiful pass through the neutral zone from right to left, to Tertyshny. Is this kind of cross-ice break a scheme that Coach Gersonsky told you to try, or was it your own idea?
EK: Teams try to respect the game plans chosen by the head coach, but in some moments it’s necessary to act according to the situation. Apparently it seemed to me that this was the best variant, so that was a spontaneous idea.
HF: All of three goals by Dynamo went scored on power-play stretches, what was the reason of your PK units not stopping their play with the man advantage?
EK: This is hockey! Everything happens. Apparently we made some errors while playing shorthand.
HF: What did Gersonsky say in the locker room after the last match?
EK: He said that he was really sorry that we didn’t play since the start of the game the kind of hockey we played in the third period.
HF: Will you remain with the team? Can you tell us what your contract status is?
EK: I remain in Avangard for this year and at the end of the next season my contract will expire.
HF: Has the arrival of goalkeeper Fred Brathwaite changed your way of playing?
EK: Fred gave us confidence. He was good especially at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs. I think we started playing more loosely.
HF: Had Gersonsky told you to try learning from the veterans of your team like (Denis) Denisov or (Ross) Lupaschuk? Or vice versa, had he told them to teach some tricks to you youngsters?
EK: From such players you can learn a lot. I was lucky to play with such partners. Experienced players always help and give suggestions. I think this is good.
HF: What did Avangard miss the most this season?
EK: This season for Avangard has finished very unsuccessfully. In the last years we constantly won medals, but this one we got kicked out in the first round of the playoffs. During the season we couldn’t find our game and the result was the last place in the standings. I can’t find a specific reason for that.
HF: What do you think about the project of the new KHL (Kontinental Hockey League)?
EK: I think it will be interesting.
HF: Are you for or against the introduction of foreign clubs in the KHL?
EK: Why not? But as far as I know foreign teams won’t participate in the cup competition. I found this not correct. If they participate, they should have the same conditions.
HF: Do you think that this league could compete with the NHL? If yes, would you prefer to play here?
EK: I think it could, but not soon. The NHL, it’s my childhood dream! That’s why for me NHL will be always at the first place.
HF: How many sticks have you used this season?
EK: I think about 50 (smiles).
HF: Do you get angry when opposing forwards try to get into the crease?
EK: It’s not that I get angry, my work is just not to let them get there. Or, at least, to make them not score from there. There are always fights in the slot and I am ready for them. This is also part of hockey.
HF: Why do some players not go immediately to the locker room when the period ends, but sit on the bench for a while?
EK: I think everyone has his reasons. Personally I never do that.
HF: Is there anything else you would like to tell us and our readers?
EK: Thanks for the attention!