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Bykov looks like the real deal in first game with Wings - Мichigan Life
By Ansar Khan
DETROIT -- It was his first NHL game, but rookie defenseman Dmitri Bykov looked as if he's been wearing a Detroit Red Wings uniform for years.
"He moved the puck well, looked good on the penalty-kill, looked good passing the puck, looked good on the point on the power play," Wings coach Dave Lewis said after Wednesday's 3-1 preseason game victory at Columbus. "For his first game here, it was very successful."
Bykov has adjusted quickly to his new surroundings after arriving from Russia on Sunday night. He missed training camp while awaiting approval of his immigration status, but it didn't set him back. After only two practices, he stepped into the lineup and played well in all situations against the Blue Jackets.
"I liked his game, thought he was very strong. You can just tell he's a very smooth player," said Wings associate coach Barry Smith, who'll handle the defense this season. "What I liked was his patience with the puck -- that doesn't just come in one game. He never threw it away like it was a grenade, he controlled it, made good passes. He used his body very effectively to block off the passing lane. On the power play, he slid back and forth on the blue line and has a quick release on his shot."
Bykov was virtually guaranteed a spot on the 23-man roster before camp. The team's top four defensemen are Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Jiri Fischer and Mathieu Dandenault. Bykov was expected to compete with Maxim Kuznetsov and Jesse Wallin for one of the final two spots in the lineup. But if his initial performance is any indication, he could work his way into the top four.
"It's like he's been playing with us for the last year or so," Smith said.
Without departed veterans Fredrik Olausson and Steve Duchesne this season, the Wings need another defenseman to demonstrate some power-play proficiency. Dandenault will get an opportunity, and so will Bykov.
"He didn't look out of place (on the power play)," Lewis said. "He's learning everything, how to play the system, how to play in the smaller rinks."
The Wings figured he would learn fast. At 25, Bykov's not your typical rookie. He has three years of experience in the top Russian league, playing for one of the better teams, Ak Bars Kazan.
Most NHL clubs overlooked him in the 2001 entry draft mainly because he was listed at 5-foot-10 and 169 pounds. It was either a mistake or he experienced a growth spurt in his mid-20s because he's now 6-1 and 190 pounds.
The Wings scouted him heavily in Russia and selected him in the eighth round, with the 258th overall pick. The day they drafted him, they projected he would be ready to play in the NHL before any of their other picks that year. They signed him to a one-year contract in July.
"He's played in pretty high levels of competition," Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "I can't tell you how much ice time he's ready to take or how big of a role, but we certainly think he can be in the lineup. Can he play in 80 games or will he need some nights off because he's not used to the physical and mental grind? I don't know."
But Holland is certain that Bykov, who might make his home preseason debut tonight when the Wings host the Dallas Stars, won't be overwhelmed by his new surroundings.
"Where he comes from, the rink is full every night, you can't get a ticket," Holland said. "It's a hockey-mad environment, much like Detroit, except there's only 5,000 or 6,000 seats (in Russian arenas)."