it’s not the names that play, but the team

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Honored Master of Sports Center Forward SKA
Andrey Nikolishin without exaggeration is one of the most titled players of the St. Petersburg team. The 34-year-old pupil of Vorkuta hockey has played for Dynamo, CSKA, Lada and Avangard, 10 NHL seasons in Hartford, Washington, Chicago and Colorado, as well as playing for the Russian national team at the Olympic Games and World Championships. As part of the Olympic team, he won the bronze medal in Salt Lake City in 2002. In 1993, together with the national team, he won the world championship, and a year earlier he became the world champion among youth teams. In 1996, as part of the Russian national team, Nikolishin took part in the World Cup, and in 1998 his Washington played in the Stanley Cup final.

By the way, in his best years, Andrei played 60-80 matches in the NHL regular championship and gained 35-50 points. And thanks to his ability to defend well, he consolidated his reputation as one of the best defensive forwards.

Our conversation began with the question of how important players of such a role are in modern hockey. Our players are not used to defending

– In Russian hockey, both in clubs and in the national team, the players are not used to playing on the defensive, – said Andrey. – The only exception is Kazan “Ak Bars”. The rest, including SKA, just pretend that they are defending themselves. Although defense is the same game as attack. You need to know how to play it. Or at least study.

– Is it different in North America?

– Yes. The main principle of all NHL teams, on which the game is built, is not to miss. If we do not score, then we will not lose. Do you understand? And in Russian hockey, a slightly different approach. Everyone is accustomed to looking for happiness at the gates of others. Therefore, probably, at the level of the national teams, we are not winning anything on the international arena. We fly forward with checkers bald, hoping to score. And the Canadians, on the contrary, dance from defense, like from a stove. Hence the psychology.

Are you ready to play for the Russian national team yourself?

– I’m always ready if they call. The desire and desire to play for the Russian national team was and remains.
Even in six months it is difficult to create a team of like-minded people

– Let’s change the topic. If you look at the statistics of recent matches, then SKA appears as the “home team” in it. Points on the road are much more difficult for the army team than on their own ice, although the players do not take experience. Why?

– I would argue about the home team. Although, of course, it is always more pleasant to play in the home walls with your fans, in such a gorgeous palace (we are talking about the Ice Palace. – AG), in my opinion, the best in the Super League. Therefore, you go out on the ice with renewed energy. Well, on the road, sometimes there is not enough concentration and mobilization in certain moments. This is the only reason.

– So, there is no talk of problems in functional training?

– Not. You can talk about skill, ability to play, skills, experience … About shortcomings in this area.

– Meanwhile, by name, the team seems to have collected cool hockey players, many of whom went through, figuratively speaking, fire, water and copper pipes. And SKA, meanwhile, takes only fourteenth place …

– Exactly – by name. But building a team out of them is a long and long way. Now, unfortunately, SKA does not have such a well-played team that could score points in every match.

In this case, how much time do you think it takes to create a strong team from the current army staff?

– It’s hard for me to say. If I were engaged in this business, then, perhaps, I would answer your question. Ask trainers and management. It takes time to build a competitive team. This is not a month, not two, or even six months. When the coach comes in the middle of the season, it is very difficult to create a team of like-minded people.
Link permutations are not a problem when style is one

– From match to match you periodically change your teammates. Is this also a cost of team growth?

– You know, it’s probably also better to ask the coaches about this. Why do they like to change my partners? Although in recent games we are constantly playing with Khlebnikov. And I think we’re doing pretty well. An understanding was also found with a pair of defenders – Kanarsky and Ryazantsev, which facilitates interaction on the site.

– Well, in general, for such an experienced hockey player like you, who played both in Russia and in the NHL, is it important to have permanent partners, or over time, “feeling of the elbow” fades into the background? Is it enough that the left and right “kraiks” are just qualified players?

– The most important thing for me is when the whole team, without exception, plays in the same vein. Then the change of partners is of no fundamental importance. Moreover, one hockey player can play, while another cannot. But if the team adheres to one playing line, then the permutations in the links do not lead to failures and failures, since everyone knows what to do in their place. But when each link plays differently and partners change, it becomes more difficult to adapt to their style. It takes time to grind.

– How important is the goalkeeper’s reliable play for the current state of SKA?

– From time immemorial, the goalkeeper is half a team. In the last matches, Maxim Sokolov, taking the same home match against Severstal, works wonders at the goal. This gives confidence to the outfield players. Without a good goalkeeper, no team has ever won.

– Do you think that as we get closer to the playoffs, does Maxim become more and more psychologically stable?

– He is an experienced goalkeeper who knows very well how to prepare for matches. It is just necessary for him to create an environment so that he feels comfortable.
Experience will be decisive in the playoffs

-Can SKA surprise everyone in the playoffs?

– If I understand you correctly (grins), then surprise – is it to beat someone in the playoffs? I think there are three, maximum four teams in the Russian championship that have been demonstrating stable play for many seasons. It’s really hard to fight them. All other rivals are quite passable. So, as you say, SKA can “surprise”.

– Are “MMK” and “Salavat Yulaev”, with whom the army team may have to clash in the first round of the playoffs, are they among these four?

– To a lesser extent, although they are among the leaders. But you can fight them on equal terms in every match.

– And yet, with whom of the named opponents is it more convenient for you to play?

– Personally, I don’t care which of them to play against. I don’t even know who is in what place in the table, because I don’t look at it. So I really don’t care who to play with in the playoffs.

– Are you hoping for your great experience, which can become a decisive factor in the battle of relegation?

– In playoff games, experience really matters, because with it comes composure, taking into account various nuances and little things that can lead to victory. Therefore, the more experienced the player, the more tactical techniques, psychological stability and the ability to get together in a decisive situation in his arsenal. I think so.

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