Our pal Bruce Berlet in Hartford spoke with the Russian defenseman, via Mitch Beck's Howlings. Thanks guys...
Pavel Valentenko said he was a bit disappointed to be among the Rangers’ first 21 cuts Saturday after being among the last a year, but he was more upset with what he did Friday night.
“I hurt my groin and didn’t tell the coaches because I don’t want to quit the game,” Valentenko said. “But it was my mistake. I couldn’t really skate. I should have told (the coaches), but I wanted to play.”
Before the injury that likely Valentenko said will keep him out about a week, he said he felt training camp was “good” – with a kicker.
“I was expecting a little bit more from myself,” Valentenko said. “I was too nervous this year. It’s the last year of my contract, and it’s all in my head. I keep saying, ‘I have to make it. I have to make it.’ Last year was good, and this year I thought I was going to make it (with the Rangers). But I didn’t. The nerves started after I got here (from Russia). I didn’t tell anybody.”
It was quite different from his first season in Hartford, when the hard-hitting, hard-shooting Valentenkto had five goals and 12 assists and was plus-21, matching traded fellow countryman Evgeny Grachev for the team lead.
“It obviously was not bad,” Valentenko said. “I found my game after two bad years in Russia. I came back in shape. Some games were not good, but most of the games were good for me. I feel much better in North America because I love the style of hockey here. It’s faster, quicker and more hitting. I love it.”
Those thoughts squashed rumors circulating in the New York media that Valentenko was going to return to Russia rather than Hartford. Valentenko said he had been contacted “by a couple teams” in the Kontinental Hockey League, where he played with Neftekimik Nizknekamsk for one full season (2006-07) before coming to North America to play with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, who drafted him in the fifth round in 2006.
But after returning to Russia to deal with family issues, Valentenko played two injury-plagued seasons with Moscow Dynamo before being traded to the Rangers on June 30, 2009 with current Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh, former Yale center Chris Higgins and former Springfield Pic defensemen Doug Janik for center Scott Gomez and former Wolf Pack players Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto. Now Valentenko says he has to improve his positioning in the defensive zone if he’s going to have a legitimate shot at the NHL.
But it’s the NHL, not KHL, that interests him most.
“I want to stay here,” Valentenko said. “I’m going to fight for the Rangers. I never quit.”