“All pressure is on us”

Ranger Dmitri Kalinin faces his old team from mother Russia


The scene is deceiving: Ranger Dmitri Kalinin had the better end in the game against Christian Dubé’s SC Bern. Photo: Getty Images/Vladimir Rys

BERNE – The big day has come. For the first time since 1991, an NHL team faces a Russian club.

Hockey fans had to wait for 17 years until the classic clash on club level takes on. Dynamo Moscow, a then-Soviet top team, beat the Quebec Nordiques 4-1 during a road trip of Soviet teams across North America, which also included CSKA Moscow and Khimik Voskresensk. The Soviets had a positive record of all those duels 1975-1991 with 58 wins, 40 defeats and 10 tied games. And the Rangers still have to win their first game against a Russian team in their fifth attempt.

The Russian league, now called KHL, has been reorganised with the goal to catch up with the NHL. The high-aiming ambitions bring Metallurg Magnitogorsk under pressure but also the Rangers, who are seen as the favourite in this clash after a convincing 8-1 win over SC Bern. Was it just a warm-up for tonight? “For us, every game is the same. We have to respect the opponent, as we will against Metallurg. Also Bern has some great hockey players,” Scott Gomez told IIHF.com after the game.

Not only the Alaska-born player of South American descent enjoyed the exhibition game prior to the Victoria Cup. “The atmosphere was really excellent. I like the European atmosphere. I already knew it from the World Championship,” said Wade Redden.

The defenceman knows about the importance of the Victoria Cup game. “It’s more than just an exhibition game for us. They’re motivated. If we take them lightly, they’ll hurt us,” Redden said. “We have to go in with pride and we want to win the Victoria Cup. When the coach talked to us, he was very eager to get the game going. It will be an interesting match and we know how the Russians like to play.”

Also tonight’s starting goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist warns about underestimating the European opponent: “I expect a high-speed game today, a smart game. We need to outsmart them. They've got some quality skaters.”

For one Ranger, the game might be more special than for others. Defenceman Dmitri Kalinin is a product of the Traktor Chelyabinsk organization. He’s born in the city which is the capital of the region Magnitogorsk belongs to as well. He played in North America since 1998 before returning to his native region for the 2004-2005 lock-out to play for... Metallurg Magnitogorsk.

Kalinin is optimistic. “We prepared pretty well for these games as all pressure is on us as the NHL team playing against Europeans,” the Rangers’ Russian told after an optional practice Wednesday morning. “The game against Metallurg is going to be a tough game for us especially at the beginning until we’re used to the big ice surface.”

Kalinin, who recently joined the Rangers after having spent his whole NHL career with the Buffalo Sabres organization, had 53 games in the steel city. However, only seven players remained in the Metallurg roster three years later.

“It’s a well-organized club. It was another team and a different coach when I was there but they still have very good players,” said Kalinin, who is not afraid that Metallurg could be more motivated than his own team. “It’s hard to say who is more motivated but for us it’s the last game before the season starts and we have to feel well, so probably it’s the same level of motivation for both teams, but we’ll see tonight. I mean, who wants to lose a game? We don’t and they won’t neither, so it’ll be a good game.”


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