Kulemin's homework starts with English 101

 

Ron Wilson figures he'll give rookie Nikolai Kulemin about a month before he takes away his 6-foot-6 safety net.

 
 
 
 
 

Ron Wilson figures he'll give rookie Nikolai Kulemin about a month before he takes away his 6-foot-6 safety net.

Kulemin speaks only Russian so if he wants to make a point on the ice during practice or if a media member requests an interview, Nik Antropov or, less often, Alexei Ponikarovsky is summoned to translate. Wilson said it's a situation that can't go on forever.

"By using the translator, it makes it a lot harder for him to learn to speak English," said Wilson. "At the beginning, maybe for a month, (I'll let it go) then I think it's going to be up to him to dig in, watch some cartoons or whatever on TV, stuff that makes it a little bit easier."

Kulemin, speaking through Antropov yesterday, said he plans to start English lessons now that training camp is over and he has more free time.

"He understands, not everything, but the hockey stuff," said Antropov relaying Kulemin's response to a question. "He understands when they say go to the puck here or there. If he has to say anything, he'll go through me or Poni."

Wilson said he has never had a problem communicating with the winger.

"I'm not explaining rocket science to him. It's hockey. He understands a lot of the terms," said Wilson.

"We just talk hockey language. We just correct by drawing on a board."

One thing that needs no translation is Kulemin's poetry with the puck. He has two goals to lead Toronto in that category after three games and he added another in the shootout against St. Louis Monday.

Wilson said he figures Kulemin will push the 20-goal plateau this season but so far he has averaged just under 13 minutes a game. If that ice time increases and Kulemin gets power play time, the coach says it might be possible to set the target a little higher.

"If he works his way up to 18 or 19 minutes a night, maybe he could get 30," said Wilson. "Reasonably thinking, 15 to 20 would be a really good year for him."

Tomorrow night will be a treat for Kulemin because he'll be in Pittsburgh facing Evgeni Malkin, a former linemate of his in his hometown Magnitogorsk. The two were both born 17 days apart in July 1986 in the same city so they played together in Russia since they were 4 or 5 years old.

"It's really easy to play with him because he's got eyes on the back of his head," Kulemin said of his countryman. "I'm looking forward to playing against him at the NHL level."

 
 
 
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9/3/2014 12:55:09 AM
 
 

 
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