Evgeny Kuznetsov was asked an innocuous question about Sunday’s Capitals-Penguins game. With all of the injured and COVID protocol’d Capitals players back, did it feel like the most normal it’s been all season?
The question allowed Kuznetsov to pivot and disparage his long-running foe: afternoon hockey games.
“[There’s] one thing that bothers me,” Kuznetsov said. “The game is at 3 pm. I don’t like those early games. I think hockey should be 7 or 8 pm starts.”
In the past, Kuznetsov has suggested in interviews that sluggish Capitals’ performances could have been due to early start times and he’s likely not alone in how he feels. Hockey players are creatures of habit. They have their routines. They go to the morning skate, they eat mom’s spaghetti, they take a toddler-esque mid-afternoon nap, they do weird handshakes/butt taps during warmies, and then they go do that hockey.
In the interview, Kuznetsov also spoke about how out of shape he was during practice after contracting the coronavirus (“I’m just happy I’m alive”) and spending 19 days on the NHL’s COVID-19 Unavailability List. He returned to the ice on Monday along with Ilya Samsonov.
“For me, it was very hard,” Kuznetsov said. “When I come back home, I’m basically on my couch for the rest of the day. It’s not easy.”
As for the Penguins, Kuznetsov is looking forward to reacquainting himself with the foe he dismissed in the 2018 Playoffs with a series-ending breakway goal.
“It’s a big rivalry, opponent for us,” Kuznetsov said. “Those games always excited. Nice to play against them. I believe they love to play against us too.
“I’m even more excited, but I have to be patient,” he added. “I have to be smart, I have to do my job on the ice first. Don’t try to do too much. There’s not a lot of juice inside of me yet, but mentally I’m 100 percent there.”
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