ALEXEI YASHIN SPEAKS TO MEDIA
Q. Could you just talk about what the arrival of Ted Nolan has meant for you personally and for the team?
YASHIN: I think it's a great impact on the team. We're kind of having a learning process, learning his systems, learning the way to prepare ourselves for the game. It's really been terrific for everybody because we really concentrate on what we have to do on the ice. He teaches us what to do with the system. He gives us a lot of rest so we make sure we are ready to play every night.
Q. I saw a story where when he met you, he was impressed with what a quality guy you were. Did you sense you had good chemistry, that he was going to have great trust in you and believe in you?
YASHIN: I am who I am. I'm glad some people see something special in me. It's always kind of great when you have a connection, especially with the coaching staff, right away. It seems like it's been going well. I hope I can play as well as I can to help the team to be successful and help Ted to build something great here.
Q. Back to what Ted Nolan has done for you and the Islanders. Has he simply come in and simplified things for you and the hockey club?
YASHIN: Yeah, I think it's true, too. He's really very good at telling everybody what they're supposed to do, penalty kills, power play, Five on Five. We play the system where he explains to everybody his role. I think it's great because instead of just, 'Let's go, guys, we have to win,' we're really learning how to win. That's what we have to do system-wise, what we have to do on defensive zone coverage. So it makes it much easier for me personally and I hope for everybody else on the team.
Q. Would it be fair to say in years past the Islanders have shown you a great commitment, they're high on you, but were you a little uncomfortable in past systems in New York?
YASHIN: I'm a hockey player. It is always been in my mind to do the best I can, whatever situation, to help the team to be successful. When I came to New York, we really made a huge step forward from a last-place team, to where we made the playoffs, and forced Toronto into a Game 7 in the first round. It really was terrific playoff series, probably one of the best I played. Next two years, we made the playoffs. We played teams who have been in the Stanley Cup finals, and Tampa won a Cup. It was a little bit of a letdown last year when we didn't play as well as we could. But I think we have a much more experienced team this year.
Q. Your former teammate Garth Snow is now the general manager. Do you see much of him these days? Is it a different guy now, a big-shot executive, or is he still the same good Garth Snow?
YASHIN: He wears a tie now, a tie and a suit (laughter). We see him a lot. He travels with the team. I think it's great because he's showing his commitment to the team, too. He's watching every game. He analyzes. He's talking to coaching staff, telling what to improve, his view of the team, how to make us better. With the players he's still the same guy. He hasn't change much.
Q. Yash, going into this season, you had said a big part of your motivation was to stop the fans from booing. How much of what's fueling you this year is maybe proving something to your teammates or to your new head coach that maybe they weren't seeing the real Alexei Yashin the last couple years?
YASHIN: It's very tough question because I try to play as hard as I can every night. Some people see something, some people don't. Some people boo because they want to express their opinion. I see this happens a lot all over the league. It's not only personally with me, but with a lot of star players, with a lot of teams. Even in Dallas we played a team with a very good record. They didn't have a good power-play, fans start booing. I think it's becoming a point where the people just went with the boos to express their opinion in the building. For me, I like to play as hard as I can every night and help my team to be successful. Sometimes it's happens, sometimes it doesn't. But I try to do my best.
Q. This is the second year you've been the captain. Is there more of a responsibility wearing the "C" than when you were just one of the assistants?
YASHIN: Since I came to the league, I had a lot of attention. It's always been very tricky. When the team does very well and the team is successful, it's so much easier to wear or "A" or be leader of a team. When a team doesn't play well, expectations are much higher than team performance; it's always been a problem. But I'm sure all captains and assistant captains that have to deal with that in the league. It depends on their record.
Q. Are you having any more fun this year than you've had in the past?
YASHIN: I think so. I think it comes from Teddy because he allows us to really play hard and prepare to the game. You don't have to be the best in the practice. He gives us a lot of free time to relax and prepare mentally for the game. I think that's been big difference for me.
Q. You were mentioning you've been a player that's always had a lot of attention placed upon you. Naturally over a career there are going to be ups and downs. You seem to be on an up now. How have you managed to maintain sort of a balance between getting too high or too low?
YASHIN: I think it comes with personality. I'm sure it's comes with experience, too. When you play for so many years, you know when you play well. It's very hard to play on the same level all season long. With experience, you try to manage, especially mentally, because the biggest part is to keep your brain in the game and try to prepare yourself. Even if you're not in great physical condition, but still keep yourself fresh-minded, you can go through the tough games.
Q. As you've gotten older, has that been something that's gotten easier for you to do?
YASHIN: Yeah, it comes with experience. I've been in the situation where you play great hockey and sometimes you play very bad hockey. What you do, you just go practice, and if you don't score a lot, you try to correct your shot.
It's great to have very experienced coaches on your side so they can help you out with that.
Q. Talk about these next two games. Last month you had a chance to play Carolina, very tough game. Talk about that game as well as the game against the Penguins coming up here this week.
YASHIN: The Hurricanes are Stanley Cup champions. Since the rule changes were introduced to the National Hockey League, it seems like they managed the best because they won the Cup last year. They manage how to play this new style of a game. This is the second year. They're really good at the game we're supposed to play now. I think it's going to be very tough game because they're really good at that. It's no question they have a lot of players on a superstar level, who can do a lot of damage, especially offensively. Brind'Amour is playing great. Stall, they have all the team supporting them.
With Pittsburgh, they have Crosby and Malkin. The way they've been playing, they have been a surprise and they have good record this year. It's going to be tough for us. How well we play defense, is whether we're going to win or lose these hockey games. When we play very good defensively and create a lot of turnovers, create some offense from a neutral zone, it's how we get points. Hopefully we can do it in the next two games.
Q. Talk about some of those rule changes you mentioned. Which ones have affected you the most, or that you've had to adjust to the most?
YASHIN: I have to adjust personally defensively because it's a lot of -- I would say I don't want to criticize everything - very weak calls. A guy steps on your stick, you know, he falls down, you got two minutes penalty. It could be at any time. It could be late in the third period. It could be in the overtime. It really affects the games like that.
At some point it's great because it creates a lot of scoring opportunities so for the fans it is probably exciting. But for me personally, it's very tough because a lot of calls have been inconsistent.
Q. What has playing with your good friend Viktor Kozlov meant for you?
YASHIN: Me and Kozzy, we go way back. We played together in Dynamo Moscow. I was with the team since 17. We've been roomies since training camp in Dynamo and became very good friends. For the last 12 or 13 years we've play for different teams, but we still keep our friendship very close. We've been practicing together during the summer, trying to prepare ourselves to the season. We really like to keep in touch and are very close. I'm glad we can play together and spend more time together.
Q. Good chemistry.
YASHIN: Yes, for sure. We've known each other such a long time.