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|28 февраля 2013 года.
Emelin is Habs' hard-hitting mystery man; 'Emmy' provides momentum when the team needs it // The Gazette
He's the Canadien you see but rarely hear, unless you count the sound of rattling boards when Alexei Emelin throws checks on opposing players.
Since his National Hockey League debut last season, Emelin has made his presence known on the blue-line through his muscular play.
The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Russian defenceman is tied for eighth in hits this season in the NHL with 64 and finished last season tied for 14th with 236.
"We don't have many guys that really hit like he does," forward Max Pacioretty said.
One of Emelin's big hits provides a spark to the team if the Canadiens get off to a slow start or don't have any momentum, Pacioretty said.
"Obviously, he hits hard; everybody knows that in the league now," goaltender Carey Price said.
"He's a very solid defence-man. He plays well," added Price, who believes Emelin and his defence partner, Andrei Markov, complement each other well.
With a large media contingent following the Habs daily, the Russian-speaking Emelin has flown largely under the radar - although he gets recognized off the ice - because he's not comfortable yet doing interviews in English, a language he's still learning.
The 26-year-old said he has only been interviewed three or four times since he arrived in Montreal. His English has improved and he speaks a lot with his teammates, Emelin told The Gazette last week.
Montreal-based Russian sports journalist Genadi Boguslavski served as a translator in the interview. In a few instances, Emelin answered with words in English.
Before the season started, Emelin worked on his English with a teacher three times a week. With the season underway, he tries to do a session once a week, but sometimes can't.
Called "Emmy" by his teammates, Emelin said he feels much more comfortable this year adjusting to life in Montreal. He laughed when asked about the biggest adjustment last season: It was having another child.
Emelin and his wife, Valentina, have two girls, age 5 and 1. Unlike many Canadiens players who have migrated to the South Shore, they live on the island of Montreal.
Emelin is from Togliatti - the same hometown as former Hab Alex Kovalev - and spends his summers there. He began skating at seven years of age and never thought he'd become a professional hockey player, but started thinking about the NHL when he was 16. As a young hockey player he didn't model his style after a particular player.
Drafted by the Canadiens in the third round of the 2004 entry draft, the team finally managed to sign Emelin in May 2011 after two unsuccessful attempts. In the intervening years, Emelin played for the Russian club Lada Togliatti and then for Ak Bars Kazan in the Kontinental Hockey League. He always wanted to play for the Canadiens, Emelin said, and is enjoying the experience.
His roommate for road games last year, former Canadien Andrei Kostitsyn, helped Emelin a lot getting settled. Emelin said he also feels at ease playing with Markov.
"Definitely, a guy like Emelin, having Markov beside him helps him a lot," coach Michel Therrien said last week.
"I believe he's improving from last year to this year," Therrien added. "He's got that physical presence out there and he's moving the puck a lot better than he was probably a year ago, so that's a good sign for him."
Despite his rugged style as a stay-at-home rearguard, Emelin doesn't spend tons of time in the sin bin. He had 30 penalty minutes in 67 games last year, much less than when he played in the KHL.
He's loathe to scrap because an orbital bone was shattered in a fight in 2009 in the KHL and had to be rebuilt with metal plates. Doctors in Russia recommended that he not get into fights, Emelin said. He began this season wearing a full cage for facial protection after taking a shoulder in the jaw in Russia.
Asked as a left-handed shot if he feels uncomfortable playing on the right side, Emelin said it doesn't matter to him whether he plays on the right or left side.
Tomas Kaberle, who can speak a bit of Russian, was paired with Emelin at times last season. In the dressing room they'd speak Russian, but English on the ice.
"It's easy to talk on the ice, the hockey talk," Kaberle said, adding that Emelin has done well since last year picking up English.
"He's a big boy," Kaberle said. "He's a great defender. He's playing steady."
Kaberle recalled one game this season when Emelin threw nine hits, which makes things even tougher for opposing teams.
"They know that he's going to hit, so it's not going to be easy to get the puck from him in the corners and stuff."