NHL players overseas: notable hits and misses
Young (Tyler Seguin) and old (Jaromir Jagr) have been thriving
The Flyers dodged a huge injury bullet when Claude Giroux went down
Ilya Bryzgalov has not exactly been following up on his GM's orders
With more than 175 NHL players now plying their trade in Europe and Russia during the lockout, here are some of the bigger success stories and struggles so far this season.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Russia)
There is no better story of healing in the hockey world than the return of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl to KHL play. In September 2011, the team's plane carrying 45 personnel, including a full roster of players, head coach Brad McCrimmon and assistant Igor Korolev, went down outside the airport in Yaroslavl. Only the flight engineer survived the crash. As of Dec. 7, the rebuilt team stood in second place in the KHL. Goalie Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche was putting up outstanding numbers (1.63; .951 in 12 games) before he injured his knee. The club includes Maxim Zyuzyakin, the only member of the team's roster who did not make the doomed flight. The 21-year-old forward has seven points in 23 games and is seeing limited minutes.
Patrik Berglund (Sweden)
Here is a good story about love of the game. Berglund is playing for his hometown team of Vasteras in the Swedish League without drawing a salary. After a fair 38-point season with St. Louis, the 24-year old centert has 18 goals in 24 games for Allsvenskan (Swedish B), the team he spent three years with before joining the Blues in 2008. By going back to his roots, he is getting the ice time he needs to improve his game when the NHL starts.
Tyler Seguin (Switzerland)
With 37 points, including 23 goals, in 24 games, the 20-year-old forward is lighting up the Swiss National League A for EHC Biel during his time away from the Bruins. Seguin can't help but be his team's most colorful player on one level. It's a tradition in Swiss League games for the top-scoring forward on each team to don a yellow helmet, sort of like the way the lead rider in the Tour de France wears a yellow jersey. "The speed and talent level of the players has surprised me," he told a Swiss paper recently. "I had to get used to it." He has.
Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic)
The Dallas Star and future Hall-of-Famer is having a banner campaign with HC Kladno in the Czech Extraliga. Jagr had 39 points and was plus-15 in his first 25 games this season. The ageless 40-year-old right wing had good reason to go back to his home country and the place where he began his junior career: he is also HC Kladno's co-owner and president. Yahoo's Nick Cotsonika paid a visit in November and wrote a detailed report about the team.
Alex Oveckkin (Russia)
How bad can life be for the former 65-goal scorer? The Caps' supersniper signed a deal with Dynamo Moscow to make a prorated $5.7 million for the year, tax free. In his first 18 games, he produced 19 points, including a superb hat trick against Donbass Donetsk on Dec. 2. The effort marked Ovechkin's first hat in any league since Jan. 22, 2011. And his team is leading the league. If Ovechkin's scoring touch is down a peg from what it used to be during his MVP days with Washington, his home country -- he originally hails from Moscow -- may be just the place to get it back.
Alex Ovechkin (Russia)
Wait? Wasn't he on the hits list? Yes, but he isn't happy. Despite the early-season success, the 27-year-old superstar has been cranky since his arrival in his hometown, saying that he wanted more fan support, changing his mind about his role with the team, and yapping about officiating. When he arrived, Ovechkin said he would decline the captain's C, because, "The team has leaders, veteran. And then a player with a big name shows up and muscles his way in? It would be disrespectful." That was before he took the C for his team on Nov. 16. After the game, a rare loss to Severstal, Ovechkin told reporters, "In my opinion, for the referees, there was only one team out there: Severstal. Every period, the refs were breaking up our game with penalties . . . That's kids' hockey." Ovie has also backed off on his threat to stay in the KHL if the NHL's next CBA slashes players' salaries.
Jason Chimera (Czech Republic)
Chimera checked out of his Czech Extraliga team HC Chomutov after just five games. The rugged 33-year-old Capitals forward had one assist with his Czech team, but found it hard to be away from his family, especially his children. Chimera scored seven goals in 15 games while he played for Mastini Varese of the Italian League team during the lockout in 2004-05, but he and his wife did not yet have any children.
Evander Kane (Russia)
The Winnipeg Jets' stud forward couldn't translate his abilities to the European game. Kane managed one point, a goal, in 12 games and a minus-8 rating with Dynamo Minsk of the KHL before leaving the club. He was, however, as feisty as ever, amassing 47 minutes in penalties. Igor Matushkin, Dynamo's Athletic Director, released the following statement (apologies for the broken translation): "Unfortunately Evander Kane could not adapt to hockey in the KHL. I had several conversations with the player, explained the requirements of the team and our vision of his role in it. Unfortunately, not adequately understood and saw progress in his game. It was therefore decided, with shared, stop working by agreement. Despite the differences in hockey matters, the parties parted without insults and complaints. I wish success to Kane in his future career."
Claude Giroux (Germany)
The last thing the Flyers need is a serious injury to their meal ticket. The star forward has resumed skating in the Ottawa area after suffering a neck and shoulder injury while playing for the Berlin Polar Bears of the German League, but his stint in Europe is done. Giroux's agent, Pat Brisson, said Giroux did not suffer a concussion on the play,which is fortunate. Giroux has twice missed stints during his NHL career because of concussions: five games in the 2008-09 season and four in 2010-11.
Ilya Bryzgalov (Russia)
After being told by Paul Holmgren to refocus on his game after a disappointing 2011-12 season ("His job is to stop pucks and help us win games," the Flyers' GM said. "It's not Comedy Central"), Philadelphia's mercurial netminder has been on a roller coaster during his stint with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. Bryzgalov was booed after giving up four goals, including a couple of easy ones, in an opening-night loss to Traktor and it has been a rocky ride ever since. On the high end, Bryzgalov made some highlight-film saves during a 2-1 win at Amur Khabarovsk -- a full 5,000 miles away, near the Chinese border -- last month when his team was out of gas and badly outplayed. In eight games, he posted a modest .894 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average, mostly while backing up starter Rastislav Stana. It's hard to sharpen your game when you don't play much.
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