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декабря 2008 года.
Kulemin gets a promotion // The Globe and Mail
Rookie forward moves to Leafs' top line to play with mentor
The latest step in Nikolai Kulemin's NHL education took him to the Toronto Maple Leafs' top line.
With six goals and six assists in 29 games, it is certainly debatable whether the 22-year-old rookie deserves a promotion, even on a middling offensive team such as the Leafs.
But since they are rebuilding and their offence - tied for 11th in the NHL before last night's games with 86 goals - comes and goes, it is not unreasonable for head coach Ron Wilson to try Kulemin at left wing on the first line with centre Matt Stajan and Nik Antropov.
Besides, Antropov, an ethnic Russian who hails from Kazakhstan, was already working with Kulemin, a native of the remote Russian city of Magnitogorsk, on his transition to North America. Antropov is six years Kulemin's senior and serves as a lingual and cultural translator, as well as a mentor.
"Nik, in particular, has done a good job explaining things to him," Wilson said.
"That's why I want him on that line, to help pick up his game.
"He doesn't speak English well, and you're in an English-only environment here. Fortunately, we've got Nik Antropov and [Alexei] Ponikarovsky as well who can help him when he doesn't understand what's going on."
The experiment was launched last Friday night in the third period of the Leafs' 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres when Kulemin replaced Ponikarovsky, who was moved to a line with Mikhail Grabovski and Lee Stempniak. It will continue tonight at the Air Canada Centre against the New Jersey Devils.
There are three prongs to Kulemin's adjustment to the NHL. One is cultural, the second is the usual shift from the international game and the third, which came up when he joined Stajan's line, is the switch to left wing from his natural position on the right.
When it comes to the game, the toughest adjustment, according to Antropov, is the simplicity of the North American game, while Wilson says it is playing more games and the increased intensity.
"[Kulemin] is a good skater, everybody knows, but he's still getting used to North American-style hockey," Antropov said. "There's not much ice here compared to European hockey.
"There, they play more combination hockey with lots of passes, drop passes, this and that. Here it's straight south-north hockey - shoot the puck at the net and go for rebounds."
Normal tactics in Russia, such as drop passes, become turnovers in the NHL.
"Absolutely," Antropov said. "I've seen [Kulemin] doing that a couple of times a game but the coach and I are helping him out as much as we can.
"There is always time in some games when you can do that pass. But in tight games you're not allowed to do that. This is a big transition for him."
Kulemin is also coping with an 82-game schedule. In the past three years, he has gone from playing 45 games in Russia as a junior to 57 in the Russian Superleague to a full NHL schedule.
"A Russian player probably plays more games in his league than a Swede or Finn or a German," Wilson said. "But still, out of the 50 games they play, maybe 25 or 30 are really difficult games because they don't have as much talent over there. Here, every game you play is tough no matter who you're playing.