Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov was recently interviewed by the NHL about his personal success with linemates Steven Stamkos and Vladislav Namestnikov, the prevalence of Russian players on Tampa’s roster, and the Lightning’s strong start this season.
Question: What helped the team's powerful start?
Kucherov: Our season has been quite good so far. The team is playing well, and our line is, too. But there are many games ahead, so we should keep going, growing and gaining experience.
What makes your line so successful and productive?
It's always great to play with such guys. Stamkos and Vlad are very smart and quick, so we feel the game the same way and easily understand each other on the ice. There are no problems. We often talk on and off the ice, discuss where we could get better or work harder; we talk a lot, and that's probably why we have good mutual understanding.
How important is it to stay productive and focused throughout the whole season?
Everyone here is a professional and treats everything seriously. Every game is important. There are no outsiders: all teams are strong, and every game is like a battle. So you go out and try to help your team win. We don't need any [extra] motivation. Everyone understands what the main goal is.
Does it help that you're now surrounded with Russian partners?
It's always good to see your guys from Russia here. We have a good team, and the Russian guys are good; we're always laughing, always positive, and the atmosphere is great in the locker room and on the ice. We cheer each other up if something isn't going well, support each other and try to always work hard.
How difficult will it be to stay at the top of the Eastern conference?
We try not to think about it and just do our best at every game, sometimes gnaw out those points--doesn't matter two or one. Even if the game is going badly, we try to overcome it and at least get a point out of it.