"Come on, Kolya!", the ever so cheerful Alexander Ovechkin yells to the bench while speeding around the rink. "Come and play! One more time!"
"I wanna go eat", Nikolai Zherdev mumbles back, sitting tired on the bench. "I already did the shootout."
But in the end, slightly disgruntled as he may seem, Zherdev returns to the ice one more time to finish the easygoing practice, much to his friend Ovechkin's pleasure.
It's another day at the rink nearby Moscow where a bunch of Russian NHL players are having their summer practices.
"There's Kovalchuk, Ovechkin, Suglobov and some others", Zherdev lists his friends on the ice.
"Most likely I'm leaving Russia before the rest of the guys here. Somewhere in the beginning of September I'll already be in Philadelphia."
The vastly spread forest fires around the Moscow area have made practicing a little harder than usual. There's smoke everywhere.
"Of course it's hard to train when it's impossible to breathe normally. I hope that it's more normal in the States. Now we go train and run in the arena because it's hard to be on the streets. Like last night was good, but this morning it was bad again. Though sometimes there's smoke even indoors."
Zherdev says his goal was always to return to the NHL.
"NHL is the best hockey league in the world, so every hockey player dreams of playing there. I'm no exception in this case."
Zherdev also got married recently.
"Yeah, I'm a family man now. We didn't have a big wedding, there were only family and friends. My wife is now also preparing to move to Philadelphia."
"We haven't sought a house there yet. But it's not a problem. I think we can find a place to live."
The Flyers really should make the playoffs at this point - How things change in just two months. Early December wasn’t *that* long ago, was it? The Flyers had just suffered through a 10-game losing streak that s...
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