ARLINGTON, V.A. — Clad in a Washington Capitals and Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club hoodie, center Evgeny Kuznetsov is all smiles as he prepares to head to Vegas later in the week for the 2022 NHL All-Star Game.
Kuznetsov got added to the Metropolitan Division roster on Sunday to replace Adam Fox. He will join captain Alex Ovechkin out west to represent the Capitals for the festivities.
And, in classic “Kuzy” fashion, he has a joke at the ready about attending the weekend with his captain.
“It’s a bad thing, I was hoping to stay away from him for a couple days, but we gotta be in the plane together,” Kuznetsov laughed. “I hope those coaches don’t like our connection, they going to separate us. I do my best to get separated from him.”
But, in all seriousness, the 29-year-old is excited to be a part of the festivities after having missed out on the original fan vote and the “Last Man In.” This marks Kuznetsov’s second NHL All-Star Game appearance, his first coming back in 2016.
“Every time you get selected there, it’s pretty fantastic,” Kuznetsov said. “I believe it’s going to be good couple days, get to know some people. Always nice to spend a couple days like that.”
After a tough and inconsistent 2020-21 followed by an offseason of critiques and trade speculation, Kuznetsov is on the ultimate revenge tour this season with 13 goals and 43 points in 42 games. His goal coming into the season was to find the “smile” in his game again, and he has done just that while also returning to his All-Star style of play. Also, he is on pace for his first 80-plus point season since 2017-18.
And while the Russian doesn’t need validation for his play, he admits it’s nice to have it from the league.
“Yeah, of course, you know, sometimes players like they don’t want to go there, right? But in the back of the heart they kinda believe they’re ready. If they having a good season, they want to get the credit for that right? I’m happy that I’m going,” Kuznetsov said.
Kuznetsov said he isn’t sure what he has in store yet for the skills competition and is trying to live in the present as the Capitals prepare for a back-to-back featuring the Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers before the break.
“I don’t have a lot of skills,” he joked, adding, “We’ll see… Yesterday was quick think about that.”
Throwback to the last time Kuznetsov was at the All-Star Weekend, when he imitated Ovi in the breakaway challenge with a cowboy hat and a Pepsi from Backstrom. pic.twitter.com/yqoMc59Zce
— Sammi Silber (@sammisilber) January 31, 2022
But speaking of skills, the Russian also shared some words of wisdom with regard to seeing more fun, creative plays in the game.
“That’s what we need more, you know? We need more fun on the ice, more skill,” Kuznetsov said. “I feel like a lot of players have a skill but you know they’re afraid to do something because the guys will make jokes or coaches will be hard on them because it’s all about wins it’s not about like show who you are in the game and you know it’s nice that the players try to do something like that and it work out.”