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Grabovski, Kulemin Bring Hustle & Skill

Assistant coach Greg Cronin breaks down the Islanders newest acquisitions

Thursday, 07.03.2014 / 1:33 PM / News
By Cory Wright
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Grabovski, Kulemin Bring Hustle & Skill
Assistant coach Greg Cronin breaks down the Islanders newest acqusitions

The Islanders added some firepower Wednesday, signing skilled forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to a pair of four-year deals.

The close friends played together for five seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, both establishing career highs in scoring, as linemates, in 2010-11. Grabovski had 58 points (29G, 29A) while Kulemin scored 30 goals and 27 assists.

Grabovski comes to the Islanders after playing out a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals that saw him score 35 points (13G, 22A) in 58 games. Kulemin joins the Islanders after six years with the Leafs and is coming off of a 20-point (9G, 11A) season.

Islanders Assistant Coach Greg Cronin coached Grabovski and Kulemin for three seasons in Toronto and had a first-hand look at General Manager Garth Snow’s new acquisitions. Cronin spoke highly of both players’ work ethic, dedication and commitment to the game.

“For young players to watch Kulemin and Grabovski work, not just during practice, but in the weight room and prior to practice, is a real blessing for a young team,” Cronin said. “They will go out and have a purpose to everything they do and take a real pride in everything they do.”

Grabovski, a natural center, won 54% of his draws last season; going 346-295. He’s won more than 50% in each of the last three seasons.

“That faceoff success speaks to his intensity and competitiveness,” Cronin said. “I told Garth he is going to work extremely hard. He’s got that second effort on pucks, a lot of quickness, he jumps into space well.”

Grabovski’s ability to win draws translates into immediate possession for his team and the Belarusian is a creative, reliable player in the offensive zone and down the middle.

“He has a very high enthusiasm to play offensively and has a lot of confidence in his ability to make plays,” Cronin said.

Kulemin adds size (6’1, 225 pounds) and a scoring touch to the Isles wing. The Magnitogorsk, Russia native threw 153 hits last season, second amongst Leafs forwards. Kulemin has a reputation for being a hard player to play against, a tireless worker who plays a North American game and has a good net presence.

“[After Kulemin scored 30 goals] the comments were that five or six went off his shin pads, but that’s fine,” Cronin said. “You should be at the net and the pucks should be bouncing off your skate and shin pads.”

Kulemin’s production dipped in the last two full seasons, as his defensive responsibilities increased, but he’s averaging 15 goals per season for his career. Cronin says that’s a realistic, if not modest goal for the quiet 27-year-old and thinks a change of scenery could boost his production.

“He sees the game the way the coaches do,” Cronin said. “His body language on the ice speaks a thousand words. He just does everything the right way.”

Grabovski and Kulemin became friends while playing in Toronto and will have instant chemistry should they be linemates. The friendship between the animated Belarusian and the quiet Russian should ease the transition for both players, who are heading to a new home together.

Their trademark hustle and scoring touch will fit in well on Long Island.

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 NYI 65 41 21 3 207 182 85
3 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
4 TBL 65 39 20 6 213 171 84
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 65 35 20 10 193 162 80
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 64 28 23 13 156 181 69
10 PHI 64 27 25 12 170 186 66
11 OTT 61 27 23 11 173 166 65
12 NJD 64 27 27 10 144 165 64
13 TOR 64 26 33 5 173 195 57
14 CBJ 63 26 33 4 163 201 56
15 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
16 BUF 64 19 40 5 123 215 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 65 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 65 14 28 23 42
B. Nelson 65 17 20 7 37
F. Nielsen 65 11 25 13 36
A. Lee 59 21 13 13 34
J. Bailey 53 13 19 11 32
J. Boychuk 55 7 23 14 30
N. Leddy 65 8 18 16 26
T. Hamonic 55 4 21 16 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 33 13 1 .911 2.47
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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