‘It’s going to be an adjustment. Right now, he handles the puck a bit too much’ — Bruce Boudreau on Andrei Kuzmenko’s power-play potential
It’s too early to make too many assumptions, but we do know this much about intriguing free-agent acquisition Andrei Kuzmemko.
The Kontinental Hockey League product has a rocket of a shot that packs a quick and accurate release. The left-winger also likes to take long shifts that have already drawn the ire of Vancouver Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford.
But you can’t teach skill and that’s where Kuzmenko’s potential as a down-low force and finisher could help the first power-play unit improve from finishing ninth overall last season with a 23.5-per-cent efficiency.
With J.T. Miller in his customary spot to feed Bo Horvat in the bumper position, Elias Pettersson operating off the half wall to create and take feeds for lethal one-timers, and Quinn Hughes poised at the point to unleash an improved shot, there’s reason for optimism.
“He worked on his shot a lot this year and we want them (first unit) to get back to where they were so good at the end of last year,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday following practice at UBC.
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“It’s the more we can practise it every day and penalty killing, too. Special teams are the key to winning and losing and if we’re great from the beginning, we’ll do pretty good.”
Kuzmenko at the net front can be a problem for the opposition if he can stand and hold his ground, fish for loose pucks and rebounds as well as finish.
“He’s certainly great at making plays,” said Boudreau. “He’s got soft hands and can see the ice around him. It’s going to be an adjustment period, and right now he handles the puck a bit too much, but that’s going to come when he sees the speed of the game and catches up because he’s a smart hockey player.
“When we watched all the video of him in Russia, he was very good at it (net front) and we wanted to give him a shot here as well.
“A lot of it depends on your personnel,” Boudreau continued. “In Anaheim, I had Corey Perry and he stands in front of the net no matter what. In Washington, we had nobody in front of the net, just five guys who could make great plays.
“As long as they converge on the net when a shot is coming, a lot of those pucks go in. If we outnumber people at the net, we’ll have success.”
OVERTIME — The second power-play unit Tuesday featured Tanner Pearson, Conor Garland, Nils Hoglander, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Jack Rathbone.
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