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[Article] Canucks Schedule: How Ilya Mikheyev gets the best out of Andrei Kuzmenko


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Canucks Schedule: How Ilya Mikheyev gets the best out of Andrei Kuzmenko


Ben Kuzma 


It takes one to know one.


Sometimes, it’s the benefit of being linemates. Sometimes, it’s a deeper connection as Russian countrymen playing in a new professional environment.


Ilya Mikheyev has served as translator and confidant for Andrei Kuzmenko. Whether trying to understand the English language or systems play, it’s not surprising that Kuzmenko emerged from a mini-funk Saturday with help from his sounding board during the Vancouver Canucks’ 5-3 triumph in Florida.


With Mikheyev returning after missing 37 games following Feb. 2 knee surgery — and also enduring a long and often frustrating rehab to strengthen the anterior cruciate ligament — his presence, pace and play against the Panthers had an effect on Kuzmenko.


His buddy made him accountable.

Instead of looking confused, Kuzmenko played more on instinct. He hustled to get the puck behind the opposition net, spun and fed a perfect backhand pass into the slot for Elias Pettersson to deposit with a quick flick of the stick to put the Canucks up 3-1.


Kuzmenko then showed poise and patience to out-wait sprawling Panthers and roof the winning goal that came off an aggressive Phil Di Giuseppe forecheck.


“That was the best game for Kuzy, he was great tonight,” said Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet. “He thinks systems so much and just has to play to our staples. He’s a high-end guy and wants the puck and he thinks systems too much and doesn’t skate as much. 


“He went to the net and battled and those are the things we’re looking for. That’s the Kuzy we know. If he has an effort like that, he can be a dominant player.”


Tocchet also knows the welcomed production and potential have a lot to do with Mikheyev’s presence as stabilizing force on and off the ice…



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