St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko is playing for Team Russia at the World Cup of Hockey 2016. The 24-year-old has agreed to keep a diary throughout the tournament, which begins in Toronto on Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 1.
In his first installment, Tarasenko talks about the first two days of training camp at Yubileyny Sports Palace and getting to spend time with some old friends off the ice.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- It's always nice when the Russian national team gets together. I have a lot of friends on this team, a lot of people who I used to play with in previous tournaments and I think this will be a really happy time for us, especially right before the NHL season starts.
I have a couple of really close friends like Artemi Panarin and Dmitry Orlov on the team. I've known Orlov for 15 years, so we have a lot to catch up on. Especially playing in different conferences in the NHL, we play just a couple times a season and the last couple of years it was back-to-back games, so we didn't really have time to go to dinner.
After practice we have a lot of free time together as a team so we tell a lot of crazy stories and a lot of jokes. It's always like this on the Russian national team. It's a good group of guys. Everybody pulls for each other. It's a really good time for us and we hope we can go all the way through.
Being back in St. Petersburg is crazy. I played here for one year in the KHL. I played in my hometown of Novosibirsk for five years and lived there for 20 years and know everybody. But I played here for only one year and a lot of people know me here. A lot of people still stay thanks for playing here. It's always nice to come back to somewhere where people remember you.
The pretournament game against Team Czech Republic on Thursday (11:30 p.m. CT; ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports) will be good for the fans because it's nice to see the national team in your town. It will be a hard one for the players because some of us haven't played in any official games for almost five months.
But it's always nice to play on home ice. I think it's more for the fans, but it's one more opportunity for us to find our chemistry and figure out our lines. We'll see in a couple days if my line with Nikolay Kulemin and Evgeni Malkin has any chemistry.
I've played with Kulemin a couple times in the World Championship and in the Olympics. I've never played with Malkin before, but he's smart and one of the best players in the game. All we need to do is talk a lot about our game, find out what everyone does best and just put that on the ice.
After the game Thursday, we go to Prague and play the Czech Republic again Saturday (9:30 a.m. CT; ESPN3, SN, TVA Sports) before we go to Pittsburgh and play Team Canada in our last pretournament game Sept. 14 (6:30 p.m. CT; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports). There's not a lot of time before the real games in the World Cup start.
We're not thinking about our chances in the tournament right now. Our goal is to go step by step and win every game. All we need to do is concentrate on the next game and go that way all the way through.