Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Flames defenceman Nesterov anxious to make most of second NHL stint

Flames defenceman Nesterov anxious to make most of second NHL stint

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“I was so excited,” Nesterov said. “It had been a long time for us to win the Olympic Games. Yeah, I know NHL players didn’t come to the Olympics, but it doesn’t matter. Olympic gold is Olympic gold.”

Just a few months later, Nesterov and his CSKA Moscow teammates advanced to the KHL’s Gagarin Cup final. Although they came up short in that championship series, they would get their paws on the prize the following spring.

“We had a very young team and guys looked up to him. He was able to play all situations at a high level,” said Calgary-raised rearguard Mat Robinson — a member of Team Canada in Pyeongchang and now in his fourth campaign with CSKA Moscow — via text from Russia. “Nesty is a great skater and puck-mover. These assets give consistency to his game.”

He’s certainly made a positive first impression at the Saddledome, despite admitting it’s been “a little tough” to find his groove because he hadn’t practised with a full squad in nine-plus months.

“The game is easy for him,” said Flames head coach Geoff Ward of Nesterov, who notched seven goals — five on the man-advantage — and 23 points in 53 skates with CSKA Moscow in 2019-20. “You can tell he’s played an awful lot of professional hockey and he’s comfortable in the NHL, having been here before. His gap is extremely good. He’s up on his gap right from the offensive blue-line. He moves the puck.

“And I just expect that he’s going to get more and more comfortable as he develops a bit of a feel for the guys that he’s playing with and he gets used to the things that we are asking him to do. But you can see that he’s a confident defenceman, he understands exactly what he brings to the table and he plays within those parameters.”

Already an Olympic gold medallist and Gagarin Cup champion, Nesterov is no doubt driven to add another ring to his collection, but he insisted it’s too soon for any title talk.

“Yeah, I hope to be winning Stanley Cup. But the focus for now is to win every game, you know?” he said prior to Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage at the Saddledome. “Just win one, that’s it, and focus on the next game. I’m not focused so far for the Stanley Cup. First of all, we need to get points to get into the playoffs and play well.”

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