Blue Jackets: Russians move past Olympic struggles

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Mark Humphrey | ASSOCIATED PRESS
Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky acknowledged “huge, huge pressure” for the Russian team at the Olympics
By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky and Nikita Nikitin were back on the ice yesterday, practicing with the Blue Jackets for the first time since they returned from the Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Putting the disappointing performance of the Russian national team out of their minds won’t be that difficult, they said. (A team that expected to push for gold did not medal.)

But going from one side of the world to the other, and then back again, in the span of 10 days might require a few days’ recovery.

Yesterday, the players reactivated their feet and lungs with a 45-minute practice at Nationwide Arena, even as their brains and body clocks struggled to get used to the nine-hour time difference. (Defenseman Fedor Tyutin, who also played for Russia, is out two to three weeks because of an ankle injury.)

“By 3 p.m. today, I know I will be so tired, but I won’t let myself go to sleep that early,” Anisimov said. “No pillows, no sofas, and no TV around me. Just drink some coffee, keep moving, get some work done … but stay awake until bedtime.”

Said Bobrovsky, with a smile: “This will take a few days, I’m sure.”

The Blue Jackets are off today but will practice with gusto on Tuesday and Wednesday in preparation for Thursday’s game at New Jersey.

Russia lost to Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, an abrupt and hollow finish in the sport that Russian president Vladimir Putin was said to want most of all.

“It was huge, huge pressure,” Bobrovsky said.

But Anisimov and Bobrovsky found positives among the rubble. Anisimov said Bobrovsky, ever the optimist, helped him overcome the disappointment.

The immense pressure will be good preparation for future big moments in their careers — the Stanley Cup playoffs, perhaps the Stanley Cup finals, and maybe even further Olympic Games, should the NHL continue to allow its players to participate.

“Bad experience is experience, too,” Anisimov said. “It’s good learning.”

Also, the joy of playing host to the Games in their homeland had a way of easing the pain. Bobrovsky said the Olympic Village had a “special feeling, with all the athletes and the energy,” and both players were relieved and delighted that Russia pulled off an organized and terror-free games, despite much concern.

“It was an awesome atmosphere,” Bobrovsky said. “I really enjoyed it, and I’m proud of my country.”

The Russian hockey players stayed on the fourth and fifth floors of the building where Russian athletes stayed. They rarely had time for family members or friends, or even other athletes, other than glancing hellos.

“One day we were sitting at a table in the cafeteria, the whole hockey team, and a figure skater (Ekaterina Bobrova) asked if she could sit with us,” Anisimov said.

He added that trays were lifted, fannies were moved and a seat quickly was made available for Bobrova, who won gold for Russia in the team competition.

A day after the loss to Finland, the Blue Jackets’ Russian Four boarded a plane bound for the United States. They arrived back in Columbus on Friday.

Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark said it took Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo “a few weeks” to get back into an NHL groove after he led Canada to gold at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

But he expects no such lag from Bobrovsky, perhaps because the disappointment will serve as further fuel for the rest of this season.

The Blue Jackets have 24 games remaining and sit one point out of the playoffs.

“I was disappointed right after (we lost), but life goes on,” Bobrovsky said. “I have big goals (here in Columbus). The Olympics … it’s already behind us.”

Slap shot

Defenseman James Wisniewski (broken left pinkie toe) and right wing Jared Boll (ankle surgery) joined the group for practice yesterday.

Dispatch Reporter Shawn Mitchell contributed to this story.

aportzline@dispatch.com

@aportzline

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