Editor’s Note: Blueshirt Banter friend Patrik Bexell caught up with Mats Zuccarello last week and was kind enough to provide the interview for us below. Follow him on Twitter here.
After the game between Frölunda and the Norwegian National team I got a few minutes with Mats Zuccarello to speak about the national team, the New York Rangers’ summer deals and what the prolonged season could mean for the playoffs.
Should we do this interview in English?
No, I speak Swedish with Hank in the dressing room its all good.
How does it feel in your legs after having the first two games of the season under your belt?
We had a very young team here, we performed well in regards to the situation. We do play against two good teams (a 4-3 loss to Färjestad and a 3-1 loss to Frölunda). They already have a better tempo on the ice, since they have been on ice longer, and they have played together more, but I feel good. We have some young guys that needs to be schooled into the system. We are doing a good job and the young guys are performing well. We have to remember it is the first games of the season. Frölunda seems to be a better team than Färjestad but that’s expected as they are the champions.
Is it a good feeling to be on ice this early before the season in regards to Olympic Qualification, World Cup and NHL season?
Our Olympic qualification is very important for us, that’s what I am thinking of right now. It is great to play games rather than just practicing on and off the ice. The qualification will be tough; France has a lot of good players, as do Kazakstan. I don’t know much about Italy, but you can’t really count anyone out. We have to get some bounces with us, but in order to get that we have to play well. You don’t get anything for free in games like that. Its about putting the puck in the net, and while I have never been a goal scorer I will do my best to get us there.
Do you feel that there is a risk to such an early start of the season and that it might impact your NHL performance over the season?
I don’t think there is a risk for that, I will be ready for the season and there will be time for me to recover properly before any playoffs if I need that. There is a risk, but I have to listen to my body a bit more during the season, in order to be ready for the playoffs.
You are a big fan favorite over in New York, have you been following the Rangers during the off season?
I get updates and follow everything that happens. We have gotten a lot more speed, we lost to Pittsburgh because of their speed. I get the feeling we have corrected that area over the summer. Personally I am a bit sad that Brassard, who is my best friend leaves, but Mika [Zibanejad] is a great player too. You always see the things positive before the season starts and I am excited. Derrick is only a phone call away, and that’s life in today’s world. We have been great friends for four years and while it’s never fun to lose your best friend, it’s reality and a business. It’s a sad thing in the beginning and personally, but Mika is a really good player so we have gotten something good in return too.
Buchnevich, and I am sorry for probably destroying that name, what do you know?
I have no idea to be honest, I have never seen him play. But rumors say he is really good we need that in our team and I am looking forward to to get to know him going forward.
Have you spoken anything with Hank now that you are in Sweden?
As we have been with the national team there hasn’t really been time to speak with him. He was in Norway with me this summer so we have spoken a bit.
Last year you went to Africa during the off season to work with your charity, how have you been working this summer?
I haven’t been to Africa this summer, we had the charity game in Stavanger (Zuccarello Charity game here and here https://www.facebook.com/Zuccarello-All-Star-Game-361386717364068/; http://www.blueshirtbanter.com/2016/6/30/12072216/mats-zuccarello-henrik-lundqvist-took-to-the-ice-again-for) Hank was with us and we got a lot of money into the charity. My new work will focus on helping kids in Norway to get more access to sports and things like that, it feels really good.