Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov spoke to the media prior to the team’s second preseason game on Wednesday hosting the New Jersey Devils at Capital One Arena (7 PM ET, NBC Sports Washington locally, NHL Network nationally). He discussed the importance of stepping up with center Nicklas Backstrom listed as week-to-week and playing with right-winger Anthony Mantha.
Kuznetsov will be making his preseason debut tonight. “I always believed that if you think you can skip the games now, you’re going to be good later,” he said, adding, “It’s not like that, so you have to prepare yourself right away and you have to play.”
As mentioned, Backstrom is listed week-to-week due to ongoing hip rehabilitation, which caused him to miss the start of the 2021-22 training camp. Kuznetsov is aware he and fellow centerman Lars Eller will have to step up and help carry the team with Backstrom’s potential absence.
“When Nick comes back, we want him to feel that the team is good…you always want to perform, you always want to play better, and you know for us it’s very important to fight for every point we can.”
The projected first line consists of captain Alex Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, and Mantha. Kuznetsov called the top line “big and fast.” He also expressed his optimism for practicing with Mantha, calling him “a very smart kid.” Kuznetsov said, “I know his strong sides and I’m going to use him a lot…I’m glad that [head coach Peter Laviolette] didn’t change anything. He gave us a couple [of] practices. That’s always huge.”
“For me, it’s not just the actual day he’s going to do that or not. For me, it’s the whole process-every game, every week, every month,” Kuznetsov said being a part of Ovechkin’s continued climb up the NHL’s All-Time Goals List to pass Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 goals. “I’m hoping for later when I’m going to sit back in my backyard and I think about that and remember all those days…memory or not, you can’t buy memory…that’s huge.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov speaks with the media ahead of his expected preseason debut this evening.#CapsDevils | @MedStarHealth pic.twitter.com/FnT5FMJOiS
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 29, 2021
By Della Young
I really hope Kuzy is fully engaged and focused this season; the team needs him to be that elite center.
Roger that. 🙏🤞