BY VIKTOR TIKHONOV
With the playoff chase in the West heating up, I thought I would update everybody on how things are going in Phoenix right now.
Personally, it has been a tough month, as I missed a bunch of games due to a fractured hand. It happened against Minnesota when I blocked a shot, but at the time I was given the green light to get back into action. I played a couple games with the Coyotes’ American League affiliate in San Antonio for a conditioning stint, but I’m back in Phoenix now.
Sitting out games is not fun because you always want to be on the ice helping your team. Watching from the press box, though, I tried to improve my game by watching the other right wingers on our team and observing how they play, how they break out, how they enter the offensive zone, what sort of body positioning they have; anything I can learn from. I also try to watch the best players on the other team – might as well learn their tricks, too, right?
The other difficult part of being injured is how it throws off your routine. I was somewhat lucky I only injured my hand because it meant I could still skate. In fact, I only missed one day of ice time because of the fracture. Since then, I have worked on getting stronger with my legs and doing extra work in the gym. It means showing up earlier and leaving later, but that’s what it takes to succeed in hockey.
Being in the playoff hunt here is very exciting. Every game we play from here on out is like a playoff game itself and things are so tight in the Western Conference that it seems as though every win puts us on top, while every loss drops us straight to the bottom.
Despite the pressure, our dressing room has been very positive. Usually on a team you’ll see at least a couple fights during practice over the course of a year, but we haven’t had one in Phoenix. Due to injuries, we’ve also had a lot of guys called up and sent down to San Antonio and everyone has been treated well.
One of the players having a breakout season for us is Enver Lisin, who is in his second stint with the Coyotes. Enver is Russian and we are roommates on the road now. His English is improving and I rarely have to translate for him.
As someone who grew up in both America and Europe, I can see why there is an adjustment period needed for Russian players who come over to the NHL. The North American game is much more aggressive and the smaller ice size takes some getting used to.
The schedule is also heavier, especially when a player is sent down to the minors. In the AHL, you’ll play three games in four nights, whereas in Russia, you probably only play two games in a week. Travel – especially the AHL bus rides – is also tough.
Fortunately, Enver is playing great and after my conditioning stint, I’ll be back in action in Phoenix, too, trying to get my team into the post-season.
Viktor Tikhonov is a 20-year-old right winger who was drafted 28th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes at the 2008 draft. Last year, he played in the Russian Super League (now the Kontinental League) for Severstal and is the grandson of legendary coach Viktor Tikhonov. He’ll be blogging for THN.com throughout the 2008-09 season. Read his other blog entries HERE.