Evgeny Kuznetsov walked up to the MedStar Capitals Iceplex podium after the team’s latest Training Camp practice with his hood up. Kuzy gave off Obi-Wan Kenobi vibes, but his mood was anything but super serious.
The Capitals center took nearly five minutes of questions, candidly addressing both the Capitals’ new first line and his possible role in Alex Ovechkin’s goals chase of Wayne Gretzky. Ovechkin, who signed a five-year contract over the summer, has 730 career goals, trailing Wayne Gretzky by 164. Kuzy will likely be his primary center for much of that chase.
NHL.com’s Tom Gulitti asked Kuzy what “it would be like to be part of that historic chase and maybe help him get there?”
As he listened to the question, the Russian center began grinning.
“Possibly be in that picture!!” Kuznetsov said before cracking up. He was referencing a past trauma from early 2020.
“Yeah, if Ovi hit any milestone, he always put the picture with other guys,” Kuznetsov explained, “but when I was there, he never put any pictures. I was waiting for that 700 goals, but it didn’t happen so I gotta use the opportunity to be there. So I’ll answer it that way!”
Kuznetsov’s referencing the photo Ovechkin takes with the teammates who assist on his milestone goals.
But on historic goal number 700, Ovi opted to go solo, instead of include his setup men, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nick Jensen.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) February 22, 2020
“For me, it’s not the actual day he gonna [get the record] or not,” Kuznetsov continued. “For me it’s how the whole process is gonna go, every game, every week, every month. I hoping for later, when I sit in my backyard and I’m going to think about that and remember all those days. You can’t buy memory. You can pretty much buy anything, but not memory you know? That’s huge.”
He then added, “And photo. I don’t think I can buy that one too” before cackling again.
Kuznetsov will have ample opportunity to set up Ovechkin for goals and collect a barrel full of apples early. Nicklas Backstrom is out injured and Kuzy is centering a new-look first line that includes him, Ovechkin, and 2021 trade-deadline-day acquisition Anthony Mantha.
“He’s a very smart kid and good guy,” Kuznetsov said. “I know his strong [points] and I’m going to use him a lot. I just believe the quicker we find the chemistry, the better we’re going to play. I’m glad Coach didn’t change anything. He’s giving us a couple practices (together). That’s always huge.”
After what many considered to be a disaster season in 2020-21, Kuznetsov says he’s laser-focused and will take his preseason debut against the New Jersey Devils very seriously.
“I always believe that if you think that you can skip the games now then you’re going to be good later, it’s not like that,” Kuznetsov said. “You have to prepare yourself right away and have to play, not just get your legs back, but understand the season is soon and we have to on our game right away.”
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