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Czech teammates help each other adjust to life in a new country

by DUSTIN COWELL @dustin_cowell /

Sometimes we all just a need a friend, right?

That couldn't be more true than when you're dropped in a situation in which everything is different than what you're used to.

When food, TV shows and especially language are all completely foreign to you, it's nice to have that one person you can lean on for some semblance of normalcy in your day-to-day life.

Such is the case with Heat players Daniel Pribyl and David Rittich.

"It's nice to have someone to speak the same language with," Pribyl admitted. "It's nice to have a guy that you know is in the same situation to talk with."

Pribyl, 24, has registered 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in 22 games this season, but has spent more time in the press box due to injury than he would have liked.

When healthy, Pribyl can be one of the more dynamic offensive weapons in Stockton's lineup and this past weekend the 6-foot-3 forward returned to the lineup after missing nearly a month due to injury.

"It's nice for sure," Pribyl said with a smile. "I've been here by myself just practicing for about two weeks and it's tough to spend that much time away from the team when they're on the road playing games.

"It's nice to be back."

Outside of the team benefitting from Pribyl's presence in the lineup, fellow Czech Rittich had arguably the largest benefit from Pribyl's company.

While Pribyl speaks fluent English, Rittich, 24, is still learning the foreign tongue and uses Pribyl as his decoder when he can.

"Daniel helps me with everything - I need to say thank you to him," Rittich said. "I think he's been a big part of my getting better as a player on and off the ice."

"When we go to dinner or for breakfast I try to listen to him and ask 'what did he say' or 'what does this mean'.

"I feel better when guys speak with me and it's getting better every day."

However, it isn't simply language that Rittich has proven to be getting better at every day.

His numbers continue to impress between the pipes, as he has been in the top-10 in the AHL in goals-against-average (2.26) and save-percentage (.922) nearly all season long, while he also currently sits second in the league in shutouts with four.

"I am here to help the guys how I can," explained Rittich. "I try to be the best and work hard in practice so that I can be good in the games.

"It's all about working in practice. That's always been my way."

There is no doubt the pair have used each other to adapt to their respective first seasons in North America and when both are firing on all cylinders in the lineup, Stockton is a better team for it.

When healthy, Pribyl has certainly flashed signs that he is every bit the player he was advertised as when the Flames signed him in the summer, while Rittich continues to impress during his opportunities in a crowded Stockton crease.

Last Week's Heat

Record: 0-1-1-0. Overall: 19-17-4-1 … F Morgan Klimchuk tied the team-lead in goals with his 13th Friday night in Bakersfield, before F Mark Jankowski reclaimed the lead with his 14th Saturday night back at Stockton Arena vs. Bakersfield …"It was a lot of fun and it was a cool experience. It was one of those things that you don't get to do too often and was my first experience at an all-star event like that. Meeting all the new guys that you're battling against every day - it was fun." - Jankowski on attending his first AHL All-Star Game Jan. 29-30 … G Jon Gillies stopped 52 of the 56 shots he faced in two starts against Bakersfield last week and has not allowed more than two goals in his last four starts.


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