Kirill Petrov hadn't played in North America before Monday night, but the new stage far from home didn't seem to faze the 25-year-old. Petrov scored the eventual winner in the Islanders' 3-2 preseason win over the Flyers at Barclays Center, but it was more his willingness to use his 6-foot-3, 232-pound frame to positive effect that had Jack Capuano and Petrov's Isles teammates noticing him.
"He just knows how to play, it's nothing new for him," said linemate Nikolay Kulemin, who was on the left side with Mikhail Grabovski in the middle and Petrov on the right. "He played for a long time in Russia, for the national team. It's not going to bother him, being here."
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Petrov was noticeable enough on Monday to earn a return engagement at Barclays Center Wednesday night when the Islanders host the Devils. Playing more games than the established Islanders veterans may be the only way for Petrov to crack the tight group of forwards, so he goes back in again on Wednesday.
It's been a long wait for the Islanders, who drafted Petrov in the third round of the 2008 draft. He stayed in his native Kazan, playing for the KHL team there for eight years, earning far more than he would have on a rookie contract over here.
But a coaching change, diminished playing time and the end of his contract made the NHL more attractive. Petrov is on a one-year, entry-level deal, which pays $875,000. He does not need waivers, so the Isles could send him to Bridgeport after camp is done, though they could risk him going back to Russia by doing so.
If he can show consistency to his efforts, which on Monday included throwing his body around well and parking himself in front of the opposing net to generate a few scoring chances, his chances of making the team will vastly improve.
"He really moved his feet well," John Tavares said of Petrov. "He's been playing with men for a long time so he knows how the game is played at this level."
The challenge on Wednesday may be playing a game without his countryman Kulemin or fellow Russian speaker Grabovski out there with him. Their presence has certainly helped Petrov's transition to the U.S. and the NHL game, having someone to explain Capuano's instructions during the three days of drills.
"Talking on the ice is obviously a big thing for us, so it's good he's had those two guys out there with him," Tavares said.
It was a good first step for Petrov. The next step comes right away and he needs to ace this one, too.