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Roman Lyubimov making adjustments to North America.
14 2016 . Dave Isaac. Cherry Hill Courier Post

VOORHEES This transition from Russia is going much better than last years.

When the Flyers brought defenseman Evgeny Medvedev overseas and paid him the most theyve paid a first-year player since Eric Lindros, it ended with Medvedev being arrested for driving in possession of a controlled substance, use of drug paraphernalia, driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol content of more than .16, driving without a license, not using a low beam and disregarding a traffic lane.

Hes back in Russia this season.

Roman Lyubimov is doing much better on and off the ice. The 24-year-old forward was a healthy scratch last game and may very well be one Tuesday also when the Flyers take on the Ottawa Senators, but coach Dave Hakstol cant keep him out of the lineup long.

Ive been really happy with everything that hes done, Hakstol said. Right from Day 1, his attention to detail, Ive talked about that a lot. His level of consistency of work has been very, very good.

Its not really fair to compare Medvedev, who was 33 when he came overseas for the first time, to Lyubimov. They play different positions, were in different points in their life when they came to North America and had different roles.

Lyubimov was never expected to tear up the scoresheet, and with one goal in 12 games he definitely hasnt. His role is to be a checking forward and do the dirty work. He couldnt be happier about the opportunity.

I had a chance to come here. I got this chance and Im here, Lyubimov said. I was planning to have two more years in the KHL and after two years come here, but it was my childhood dream and I just couldnt wait two more years to come here.

Another reason why its not fair to compare Lyubimov to Medvedev is their grasp of the English language. Medvedev never caught on to it in his brief time here and Lyubimov had a limited vocabulary when he came overseas, but enough to have a conversation. Its improving, too.

He uses the same tutor, Miriam Gilbert, as Medvedev. Gilbert speaks no Russian, which Lyubimov says is a good thing because it keeps him from using his native tongue as a crutch.

His wife Kate works with Gilbert to learn English, too. Lyubimov said that soon enough his wifes English will be better than his. She is reading The Alchemist and its taken her a couple weeks to get through 10 pages, but shes determined to improve her English. Only a few times shes used a smartphone app to translate when she couldnt make words out on her own.

Her husband is similarly motivated, especially on the ice.

I want to play here and I want to be a good player for the team, Lyubimov said. I work for that. I want to be a great player for the team. Thats my target No. 1, I think.

Hes done great, Jake Voracek said. Hes playing such a tough game. Hes skating well. Its a great addition to our team. Hes a fast, smart player and hes got a great shot. He earned that spot. Thats why hes here because he earned that in training camp.

Voracek came from the Czech Republic to North America when he was 17 so he knows how tough the transition is. For Lyubimov to succeed on the ice as well as make the cultural adjustment is pretty impressive. Not everyone can do it, but the Flyers have found success in the past with Michael Raffl (Austria) and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (France).

It depends on what league youre coming from and it depends on how old you are as well, Voracek said. If you are 18, 19 its hard to make an impact, but if you are a ready player like 24, 25, you are more physically ready than the 18- or 19-year-old. Thats a little bit different. If youre working hard enough and if you have the type of game that Lyuby or Raf does, thats strong on the puck, a fast skater, you can make an impact right away.

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