Getting to know the Rangers' Russians

There haven't been many things for Rangers fans to be positive about lately, but the ongoing development of rookie Artem Anisimov has to be one of them. While the young Russian hasn't been piling up points -- on the contrary, he ended a 17-game scoring drought on Monday -- he has continued to improve in other areas of the game, earning an increasing amount of ice time in more important situations from head coach John Tortorella.

Anisimov's adaptation to New York and the NHL has been helped by the presence of fellow Russian Enver Lisin. Lisin, playing in his fourth season in North America after spending parts of the last three with the Phoenix Coyotes, has had mixed results so far in his first campaign with the Blueshirts, earning time in the press box for his play away from the puck after being slowed by a foot fracture in late fall. The 23-year old returned to a full time role two weeks ago, playing primarily on Anisimov's wing.

That they fit together on the ice should come as no surprise, considering they spend the majority of their time together off it. The pair have become virtually inseparable since arriving in New York, renting apartments in the same building, traveling to and from the rink together and spending much of their down time with one another.

And so it was only natural that Russian web site All Hockey would choose to interview the dynamic duo together, posing questions they solicited from their readers. The highlights from their far-ranging conversation are translated after the jump. For the full translation, visit Beyond the Blueshirts.

Consider it a little diversion from the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth that comes part and parcel with being a Rangers fan these days.

- Welcome Artem and Enver. What do you think of fighting on the ice? You’ve now played overseas for a long time, you’ve gone through the rigorous grind of the AHL, I’d like to know your opinion and receive an answer to the question: is it worth it for our league to follow the same path, to permit more physical play? At times the hockey in the Russian league can be as boring to watch as figure skating.

Enver Lisin: I have a normal attitude towards fighting on the ice — it’s an elementary overflowing of emotions. My opinion: it’s better to let off steam on the ice, where the rules don’t forbid it, than in some bar. So those who want to fight, let them fight. But I don’t think it’s necessary for the Russian league to go the NHL route. Why should we start following the NHL — we have our own league, our own history, our own hockey.

Artem Anisimov: I hold the opinion that one should fight only when it’s really necessary. For example, when a team is losing it’s necessary to get it worked up, shake it up, charge it up with emotions. One of the ways to do this is to fight. But flapping your fists for no reason doesn’t make sense. And in my view giving five minutes for fighting in Russia would be the optimal solution, otherwise it doesn’t make sense: you fight once, and you miss the whole game.

- Which [size] ice surface do you like to play on, European or North American, and should the KHL change its ice surfaces?

EL: I prefer North American. There’s no doubt that games in Russia would become much more interesting if the KHL reduced the size of the ice surface.

AA: I’ve played on small ice surfaces for the last three years and it seems to me that they bring more conflict to the game and that the speed gets considerably higher. I think that if the KHL were to change the size of the ice surface, the hockey would become even more interesting.

- About Donald Brashear: is it true that he speaks Russian and plans to play in the KHL? There were rumors that he could find himself with Chekhov Vityaz, a club which delights [fans] with physical play and frequent on-ice fights, while not forgetting the main task: scoring on the opposition’s net.

E.L.: Yes, he really wanted to play in the KHL, like you said, he could have found himself with Checkhov Vityaz, but the New York Rangers won out, apparently. Donald often asks us about Russia, so maybe a little later he will go and play in our country. He speaks Russian, but only a very little bit.

AA: Incidentally, he even has a teach-yourself-Russian CD in the his CD player.

- Good day, Artem and Enver. Are you given enough time to simply read a book and do you enjoy doing so? If yes, what are you reading now?

EL: Yes, there’s plenty of time, especially on the plane and on road trips. The last [book] that I read was one of the works of Boris Akunin. Right now there’s a book lying in my bag, but so far I haven’t opened it.

AA: Yes, I love to read from time to time. Generally I prefer fantasy. For example, right now I’m reading "Ancient". I also like historical books, especially the history of ancient civilizations.

- Enver, knowing that your played in Kazan and hearing your name, many people think that you’re from Tatarstan. Reveal the truth, what is your home town and the history of your name?

- No, I’m not from Tatarstan, I was born in the Moscow area, in the city of Voskresensk. And I must say that I’m very proud of that, since many good hockey players have come from our city: Larionov, Kamensky, Kozlov, Titov, Zelepukin, Berezin, Kvartalnov — I could go on.

It was my grandmother’s idea to name me Enver. In Arabic it is translated as "sun, light". It’s even the name of one of the Suras in the Koran.

- And a question for both guys: who from the players currently playing this fine game would you name as friends, or even good acquaintances?

EL: Ilya Bryzgalov, Artem Anisimov.

AA: [Devil's prospect Alexander] Sasha Vasyunov, Semyon Varlamov, Enver Lisin, [ex-Wolf Pack teammate] Vladimir Denisov.

- Everyone knows that the level of the organizations in the NHL is much higher than in other leagues, even for the most elementary things. But how comfortable, for example, is your locker room. What do you have there? Tell us.

AA: I really like our locker room, it’s big, comfortable. There’s everything here that a professional hockey player needs: qualified staff, everyone has their own locker, there’s a large place to change clothes, a special sauna, hot and cold baths, a large room for the trainer and masseuse and much more.

EL: In general, we have everything we need in the locker room. Incidentally, if you play on the main team in Russia everything is also convenient and comfortable.

- Enver, hello. What profession would you choose if you weren’t a hockey player. Or maybe you still have some passion other than hockey, a hobby perhaps?

- It’s difficult for me to picture myself outside of hockey, so I’d probably become a coach or an agent. It’s hard to have any other serious passions… after all, hockey is a way of life, there’s little time for anything else. So I love simply playing video games. I play with Artem, by the way.

- Hi Artem and Enver. What was the main impetus for each of you to go to the USA?

AA: Playing in the NHL was my dream since childhood, what else can I say?

EL: Every hockey player wants to try his hand in the strongest league in the word, that’s no secret to anyone. I think it’s probably the biggest dream for every hockey player from childhood, not just Artem. Just imagine, you start playing for your favorite team in this league on the computer or game console, scoring on Brodeur, and a few years later you’re out on the ice with him. Seems to me it’s what everyone aspires to.

- A few quick questions for you both: 1. Ovechkin or Malkin? 2. Stanley Cup or Olympic Gold? 3. [Russian TV programs] "Comedy Club" or "Killer League"? 4. Beautiful or smart girl?

EL: 1. Datsyuk 2. Olympic Gold 3. Comedy 4. Unpretentious.

AA: 1. Malkin 2. So far I haven’t decided, I want to win everything. 3. Comedy 4. A combination of the first and the second.