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High hopes

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Alexei Emelin is eagerly anticipating the start of his fifth NHL campaign.

Working out and skating alongside the likes of young guns Nikita Scherbak and Sven Andrighetto at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard on a daily basis, the 29-year-old rearguard has a number of personal goals in mind, all of which would go a long way towards helping Michel Therrien’s troops achieve their ultimate objective come next summer.

“I’m ready to get out there and try to win the Cup again. It’s a challenge for everyone to grow and take another step every season. It’s the same for me, too. I think this team is ready to take another step forward,” offered Emelin, who put up three goals, 14 points and a team-leading 204 hits in 68 regular season games last year, before adding 42 more hits in 12 postseason outings. “I’m still going to play hard and hit, but I hope to pick up a few more goals along the way. I can do it. I need to be more active in the offensive zone, more active on the blue line and more physical in the defensive zone, too.”

Emelin certainly won’t be the only Habs regular looking to increase his offensive output in 2015-16. Fortunately, the Russian defender believes help is on the way in the goal-scoring department in countryman Alexander Semin, who is coming off the least productive season of his NHL career in Carolina.

“I played with him in my hometown of Togliatti. I think he’s a very good guy. He’s very offensive. He has good quick hands and good vision,” praised Emelin, who is pleased to Semin join the fold. “I think he’ll help us on the power play. I know he’s got a very good wrist shot. He’ll be a good player for us.”

Before getting back to the business of hockey, Emelin spent some quality time overseas with his family, vacationing in the Maldives with his wife, Valentina, and his daughters, eight-year-old Lesya and three-year-old Mila, ahead of returning to Russia for a three-week stay.

“It was the fourth straight year that we’d been to the Maldives. I like it there. It’s very quiet. I have a bungalow near the beach. The kids play together and there’s great sand. There aren’t many people around, so it’s a good place to get away for a bit,” mentioned Emelin, who logged a career-high 19:49 of ice time in 2014-15. “Then, we headed to Togliatti. My parents aren’t that young anymore. They’re getting older. I only get to see them once a year. The kids spent time with their grandparents, and my wife and I visited friends. It’s always nice to go home.”

There, Emelin went about his off-ice workout routine, pounding the pavement to up his cardiovascular strength.

“I trained every morning in Russia. I ran a lot. After surgery, I couldn’t really run for a few years. I think I needed to run more. I like it. That’s something I love to do in the summertime. It’s good preparation for the season,” shared Emelin, who underwent reconstructive surgery in May 2013 to repair the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. “I worked out by myself. This year, I didn’t skate in Russia, though.”

Last week, the Canadiens’ No. 74 headed back overseas for three days, hitting the ice in Kazan to participate in a charity hockey game organized by former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk. Emelin & Co. raised almost $125,000 USD for local orphanages in a game that also served as a farewell contest to the rugged defenseman’s good friend and former KHL teammate, Alexei Morozov, who announced his retirement last August.

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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