He’s back from Sochi earlier than he wanted to be and exhausted from a couple of long days of travel, but the Olympics weren’t a waste for Anton Belov. The Edmonton Oilers rookie defenceman joined his teammates in their mini-training camp on Saturday at Rexall Place, three days after he and the rest of the Russian team were eliminated by Finland in the quarter-final of the men’s hockey tournament. Belov was on the ice with Martin Marincin, who returned from representing Slovakia at the Games. Ales Hemsky is back with the Oilers, with his Czech Republic team eliminated by the Americans on Wednesday, but didn’t take part in Saturday’s session. “I’m good, but I travelled a long way,” Belov said after practice, aided by goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s occasional translation of reporters’ questions. “A long flight, no sleep the last two nights, but I’m glad to be here again,” he said. Belov played in all five of Russia’s games, scoring one goal in 66:49 of ice time. Playing in his home nation (his hometown of Ryazan is a good 20-hour drive to Sochi), Belov admitted there was a great deal of pressure on he and his teammates to win. “Yes, for sure because this is a home Olympic Games,” he said. “But when I was on the ice I didn’t think about it. “Everybody worked hard but we couldn’t score sometimes. This is a game and we lost this game.” The 27-year-old would like to see the experience he had with the Russian team help bolster his role with the Oilers through the final 22 games of the National Hockey League schedule this season, but he knows that he doesn’t decide how much ice time he sees. The man who makes those calls got positive feedback on Belov when he returned to Edmonton this week after the Olympic break. “Our scouts were watching the Games and he played very well, which is encouraging,” head coach Dallas Eakins said. Transitioning into the NHL after five seasons with Omsk Avangard of the Kontinental Hockey League, Belov has got into 44 of the Oilers’ 60 games this season. He scored his first goal on Jan. 10 in a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has six points this year, but sits at minus-11. “Anton is a first-year player over here and I think it’s hard coming off of that big ice,” Eakins said. “That big-ice game is a slow game. I think at times he has played well here and at times he’s been challenged by the speed.
Belov hopes Olympics experience translates to NHL
Edmonton Journal | Feb 23