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The eight-game Soviet tour of NHL teams in 1975--76. The Soviets are 5-1-1 heading to the Spectrum. "That was the one day the entire hockey world was rooting for the Flyers," Philadelphia chairman Ed Snider says. The Soviets bolt the ice midway through the first period after Flyers defenseman Ed Van Impe wallpapered Kharlamov, retreating to their dressing room for 16 minutes. When Snider informed them they wouldn't be paid for the entire tour unless they returned, the Red Army came back for its 4--1 thumping.
"I've heard accusations that this organization hates Russians, but it's not true," Clarke says. "We've never been prejudiced against any country. When I played against them, I didn't like them. But I didn't like a lot of teams. Nothing personal."
Philadelphia has had Russians. Just not prominent ones. The only renowned Russians to play for the Flyers have been center Alexei Zhamnov and defenseman Vladimir Malakhov, who played just 26 games between them. The club's leading Russian goal scorer is left wing Valeri Zelepukin, who had 27 in 151 matches.
"Personally, as a Russian, I feel no pressure," Bobrovsky say. "No matter what nationality you are, if you stop the puck, you stay with the team."
SO is Bob the one? Bobrovsky is learning to cope with the heavy traffic in front of the net, something foreign to the KHL. Reese is coaxing him to play a little higher in his crease and to handle the puck more. Bobrovsky's 26-save win over Nashville on Feb. 3 was his 34th game, one short of his career high for a season.
"After 30-some games, it's a little premature to start labeling him the next Pelle Lindbergh," Pronger says. "He needs to form his own identity. And he's starting to do that. He's certainly getting a loyal Bob following."
"Personally, I think he's the guy," Brière says. "He has the talent to be something special. It's tough to tell with goalies because so many things come into play with their minds, but he seems like he's in the right place."
Yes. First place.
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