Kukla's Korner

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#2 Star Of The Week Talks

Martin Havlat took part in a tele-conference today. Q. The goal you scored last night, could you just take us through that. A pretty spectacular goal against Columbus. I wanted to know where it ranks as far as the prettier goals you’ve scored in your career.

MARTIN HAVLAT: It was one of the pretty ones for sure, but still counts like the ugly ones, so it’s the same thing. I think it started with a great play on our blueline from Peter Bondra. If he wouldn’t have chipped the puck out of the zone, I wouldn’t even get that chance. Then I just was—I have a couple lucky bounces there on the redline battling with Klesla. After that, I was there all alone. He tried to hook me. I was kind of waiting for the first penalty shot ever. I never had a penalty shot. The puck was still there. Just trying to put it in. I was lucky at the end it was in.

Q. You fought through the check behind you. Somebody was tugging on you. You continued to skate. That’s a quality that NHL players really respect, fighting through the check, not waiting for the referee to blow a whistle, point to the midline. Is that indicative of the way you play the game, always go to the net no matter who’s tugging on you?
MARTIN HAVLAT: Well, I knew I got a breakaway, then I just felt the hook. The puck was still there, so I still could finish the whole play. I just slowed down a little bit. That helped me with deciding what I’m going to do at the end, with the move at the end. I was just happy that I didn’t fall down really before I made the move. After that, it was kind of a nice goal.

Q. The way you’ve been playing of late has been fantastic. Would you say this is as good as you’ve played in your career?
MARTIN HAVLAT: I’m trying to be better every year. Every time before the season I just want to be better than the previous year. Like this year I’m getting so many chances on the ice, playing in all the different situations. I can explain myself on the ice as much as I want. Not every night is a good night, but I think I’m playing the best hockey what I played in the NHL. I think it’s just because of the time on the ice, too. I’m getting a lot of chances. I’m really happy for that.

Q. And how does it feel to be pain free? You’re playing without injury right now.
MARTIN HAVLAT: How do you know that (laughter)?

Q. I’m guessing.
MARTIN HAVLAT: No, last year, difficult two years. Last year I almost missed the whole year. I was really happy to be back for the playoffs because it’s the most fun part of hockey. The Stanley Cup playoffs, it’s the best you can get. But this year, after the good start, I think the whole team started pretty well. I got hurt again for seven weeks. Handzus, too, till the end of the season. Khabibulin the same time. So didn’t help us. Didn’t help the team, too. It’s been difficult. It’s been up and down. I’m just trying to get healthy as much as I can be, help the team on the ice. That’s all I’m trying to do.

Q. I know you loved Wayne Gretzky. Playing Jaromir Jagr, is that always a thrill to play against somebody you grew up idolizing?
MARTIN HAVLAT: It’s always fun to play against. I didn’t have a chance to play against Gretzky because I came the year after he retired. It was kind of sad. But I had chance to play against many other great All-Star players. I’m just always trying to beat all my countrymen. It’s going to be fun in New York for sure, I don’t know, in four days when we’re playing there.

Q. Being from the same hometown as your teammate Radim Vrbata, did the two of you know each other growing up or play together as kids?
MARTIN HAVLAT: Actually, I was born in the same city like him, but when I was let’s say two years old we moved to Brno. I was just actually born there. First time we played together, we were like 14, 15 when my father and the team which I was playing for, we went to North America for the first time and played tournament in Minneapolis. I think it was 12 years ago. Played the summer hockey festival there. That’s the first time I kind of play with Radim in one team. Then we played with each other on junior national team, then here.

Q. So far this season it seems like the team has responded well to coach Denny Savard. What is it that he’s doing different that Dale Tallon and others have done that have lead to that success?
MARTIN HAVLAT: You mean Trent?

Q. Yes, sorry.
MARTIN HAVLAT: It was kind of bad luck for Trent, like I said before, the three key injuries at the beginning of the year, Handzus, Khabby, myself, we were hurt the same time, so that didn’t help. Before that was seven games I think we were off to a pretty good start. Things could be much different if we were healthy. That’s just the “ifs.” After that the team decided change the coach. Denis loves hockey. If he could, he would be still playing with us. He’s still trying to do that in the practices. He’s trying to have fun still. He brings a lot of energy on the bench, in the dressing room. Only thing he wants to do is to win. It’s his first year, too. Like I said, it’s his first year, too. He never was a head coach before that.
There’s a lot of young guys on the team. I think he loves working with them. With me, just giving me so much space on the ice. I feel really fortunate. I’m really happy for that, that he trusts me that much.

Q. What has it been like for you playing with somebody like Peter Bondra, who has been in the league so long, has over 500 career goals? Has it been a learning experience? Have you picked up anything from him?
MARTIN HAVLAT: I had a chance to play with him in Ottawa that one year when he was there. Right now there’s not that many players in the NHL who scored 500 goals. He’s a great goal-scorer. You can see in the practices how he picks the right spots when he shoots. It’s been nice to watch him in the practices, too.

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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