In late September and early October of last year, Rangers forward Nikolai Zherdev was in Bern, Switzerland, preparing for the season with his Blueshirts teammates.
Just over seven months later, Zherdev is back in Bern this week, competing in the World Championship tournament for an unbeaten Russian team that opens quarterfinal play on Wednesday.
|Nikolai Zherdev celebrates a teammate's goal during Russia's 6-1 win over Latvia at the World Championship tournament in Bern, Switzerland, on Saturday. Zherdev picked up his first point of the tournament with an assist on the goal. |
Although Zherdev was born in Ukraine, he plays internationally for Russia, having represented that nation at the World Junior Championships, where he won gold in 2003. Now, Zherdev is in the running for his first World Championship gold with a Russian squad that is 8-0-0 in the tournament so far.
Zherdev has played two of Russia's eight games to date, joining the team after the Blueshirts exited the playoffs last Tuesday. On Friday, he helped Russia to a 4-1 win over Team USA, and on Saturday, he picked up an assist in the Russians' 6-1 rout of Latvia.
Zherdev's assist came on a goal by linemate Alexander Frolov of the Los Angeles Kings. The goal, at 3:38 of the third period, gave Russia a commanding 5-1 lead.
In addition to his one assist, Zherdev is a plus-2 through two games, and he has averaged nearly 11 minutes of ice time. His other linemate at the tournament is KHL star Sergei Zinoviev, who played in the NHL with Boston in 2003-04.
The Russians will face Belarus in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday night in Bern. The three other quarterfinal matchups include Team USA vs. Finland, Canada vs. Latvia, and Sweden vs. the Czech Republic.
On Wednesday, Zherdev will be going against one of the Rangers' prospects in Belarussian defenseman Vladimir Denisov. After the Hartford Wolf Pack's season ended, Denisov joined the Belarus team. He has played four games at the Worlds so far, helping his team to three dramatic overtime wins.
One other member of the Rangers' reserve list, defenseman Ivan Baranka
, also competed at the World tournament, but his Slovak team failed to reach the quarterfinals. Baranka, who played one NHL game for the Rangers in 2007-08, finished the tournament with one assist and four penalty minutes in six games.