Sunday, March 3, 2024

Andrei Kuzmenko makes speedy mark in Flames debut

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The Calgary Flames figured Andrei Kuzmenko might present a lift for his or her struggling power-play.

He didn’t waste any time proving them proper.

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On simply his second shift in a Flames uniform, Kuzmenko launched himself with a depraved wrist-shot for a man-advantage marker.

The Russian right-winger unleashed a celebratory scream, then flashed a mega-watt smile that his new teammates — and an adoring fan-base — are hoping to see on a frequent foundation.

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“It’s a superb feeling,” Kuzmenko beamed after Tuesday’s 4-1 conquer the Boston Bruins at TD Backyard. “Good feeling as a result of we win. It’s good. I prefer it.”

On this evening, there was an entire lot to love.

Jonathan Huberdeau scored on a top-shelf sizzler and added a pair of major assists — a kind of on Kuzmenko’s first as a Flame — in what was his most dynamic efficiency in months.

Nazem Kadri was additionally credited with three factors, together with a candy feed that led to a slick end by his rookie sidekick Connor Zary.

Blue-line addition Brayden Pachal, two days after being claimed off the waiver-wire, made his presence recognized with six hits.

Calgary Flames vs. Boston Bruins
Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom stops a shot from Boston Bruins ahead Jake DeBrusk at TD Backyard in Boston on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. Picture by Wealthy Gagnon /Getty Pictures

And the Flames, collectively, restricted their hosts to solely 22 photographs on internet. The Bruins’ lone strike got here on a five-on-three benefit, and Jacob Markstrom was ready to cease that earlier than an unfortunate deflection off the stick of considered one of his personal penalty-killers.

“A pack of hyenas can take down a lion,” Kadri advised reporters after the Flames handed the Bruins solely their fifth regulation lack of this season of their house rink. “That’s the kind of mentality we’d like is taking part in as a staff and everybody chipping in. And after we do this, we will accomplish nice issues.”

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The Vancouver Canucks, now perched alone atop the general standings, imagine they’ll accomplish nice issues.

That’s why they had been supplied a considerable bundle — together with their first-round draft choose and a pair of defence prospects — to land Elias Lindholm in a blockbuster swap with the Flames final week. (Lindholm cashed two targets Tuesday in his first twirl together with his new crew.)

Kuzmenko, partially due to his US$5.5-million cap hit, was deemed by the West Coasters to be an expendable piece. The fan-fave ahead, after being promised a extra distinguished function in Calgary, waived his no-trade safety to approve the transfer.

Whereas Flames normal supervisor Craig Conroy made this deal primarily with a give attention to the longer term, there have been speedy returns Tuesday in Boston. It’s not typically {that a} salary-dump comes with this kind of skill-set.

The brand new man in No. 96 debuted alongside Huberdeau and Yegor Sharangovich on Calgary’s first line. He was among the many personnel on the highest power-play unit.

On his first shift, the 28-year-old Kuzmenko discovered Huberdeau within the slot for a wide-open look. Earlier than he’d even been again to the bench, he peeled away from a examine and spied an in-stride Rasmus Andersson for an additional scoring alternative.

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His power-play tally, which got here simply 4:20 seconds into Tuesday’s tilt, was a main instance of the deadly shot that made him a star within the KHL after which a 39-goal man in his first marketing campaign in Vancouver. He didn’t look, as he lasered a glove-side providing previous Jeremy Swayman, like a man who had didn’t mild a single lamp within the last five-plus weeks of his Canucks profession. He now has 9 snipes on the season and 48 in his 125 loggings on the NHL stage.

Kuzmenko later danced round Hampus Lindholm, a man who just isn’t simple dipsy-doodle. He practically arrange Huberdeau for a third-period tap-in on a give-and-go.

And little question conscious of the questions that adopted him from Vancouver, with some saying he’s defensively poor or worse, defensively disinterested, he was clearly dedicated to making an attempt to do the proper issues in his personal finish. At one level, he fended off a examine from Bruins captain Brad Marchand to haul a puck into impartial territory.

“We wish to play as a lot time of their zone, so we don’t play defence,” Huberdeau advised reporters after the victory over the Bruins. “That’s our aim. Initially, we have now to consider defence. That’s what we did tonight. We now have to maintain doing that.”

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Calgary Flames vs. Boston Bruins
Boston Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy is checked by Calgary Flames ahead Mikael Backlund at TD Backyard in Boston on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024 in Boston. Picture by Wealthy Gagnon /Getty Pictures

Throughout a post-game scrum, Kuzmenko insisted he hasn’t given up on the considered skating within the NHL’s spring dance.

“I stated earlier than season, I wish to play to playoffs,” he stated. “And I strive. Each sport is slightly step, step, step.”

The Flames (23-22-5) are going through a steep climb, particularly with the likelihood that they might commerce away two key defencemen in Noah Hanifin — he logged a team-high 25:46 and scored a power-play aim of his personal in his hometown of Boston — and Chris Tanev.

However it might assist if Kuzmenko stays as harmful as he was Tuesday in his staff debut.

“It’s not an excessive amount of good,” he protested. “As a result of we had a variety of possibilities and we’d like extra targets as my line. It’s good, a superb line. It’s an excellent connection. Each shift, there may be speak. I prefer it.

“Sharangovich and Huberdeau are actually nice gamers, and the power-play is sweet. I hope, I hope, there may be good outcomes.”

He’s not alone there.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

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