Flyers forward Nikolai Zherdev remains an enigma

New Flyers forward Nikolai Zherdev was an enigma during previous NHL stops with the Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Rangers.

Zherdev was drafted fourth overall by the Blue Jackets in 2003. Last season, he played in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League after the Rangers let him go following a $4 million salary award in arbitration.

Apparently, the native of Ukraine, who most recently played for the Atlant-Moscow Mystishchi, is still a mystery. At least, he was Thursday at Flyer Skate Zone, one day before the team officially opened training camp.

Even though Zherdev understands English, he insisted on using Slava Kouznetsov, the Adirondak Phantoms' skating coach, as a translator. And what the 6-foot-2, 203-pounder said, via translation, was less than enlightening.

Asked about his personal goals for the season, Zherdev responded: "How it's going to go, it's going to go."

Assuming the message was lost in translation, the question was asked again, but differently. The answer, though, was similar to the previous answer.

"I will work and do [what's required]," he said with a smile. "How it turns out, it turns out."

The Flyers hope things turn out with him fitting on a squad that hopes to reach a second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals. That's why, despite his inconsistency and perceived disdain for playing defense, they signed him to a one-year $2 million contract in July.

The short-term commitment does protect the team from risk, as general manager Paul Holmgren has shown a willingness to take chances on players with questionable reputations.

Zherdev's best campaign was in 2007-08 when he finished with 26 goals and 61 points for Columbus. Over parts of five NHL seasons with the Blue Jackets and Rangers, he compiled 239 career points (99 goals, 140 assists) in 365 regular-season games. He is scoreless in seven playoff games.

With Atlant-Moscow last season, he finished with 13 goals and 26 assists in 52 games.

"I always looked forward to playing in the NHL," Zherdev said. "But the last year [playing with the Rangers] didn't happen, so I played in the KHL. Now I'm back here and really want to play here."

Flyers unveil new uniform. The Flyers kicked off training camp Friday at Skate Zone by unveiling their new road jerseys. The new jersey, worn by captain Mike Richards, is the same as last season's Winter Classic jersey minus the patch.

During the ceremony, Peter Luukko, the president/chief operating officer of Comcast-Spectacor, thanked the 100 or so fans on hand for last season's support. Afterward, the Flyers had free public skating for fans from 4 to 10 p.m.

Players ready. The Flyers had their first team meeting Friday evening and their first on-ice practice is slated for 9 a.m. Saturday.

A portion of the Flyers have been working out at the Skate Zone for the last three weeks.

"It's great to see that," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. "It seems to be happening more than normal with young players coming in. Young draft picks coming. Players staying, making sure they are ready for camp. . . .

"I think you see that more now than you did 10 years ago. And it only benefits the players."

Richards expects intensity. Richards has an idea of what to expect in training camp even though this is the Flyers' first under Laviolette.

"I think last year with him, you could see the pressure we had on the ice," the center said of the coach who was hired after the start of last season. "So I think conditioning is going to be something I think he is focusing on. And making sure that we are in great skating shape."

 


Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 610-313-8029 or kpompey@phillynews.com.