Edinburgh Capitals’ recent returnee, Nikita Kolesnikovs, is hopeful a new found physical edge to his game could help Edinburgh “get going” away to Manchester Storm tonight and tomorrow’s home tie against Coventry Blaze (face-off 6pm.)
Kolesnikovs returned this week for his second spell with Capitals after spending close to two years playing for Saint-Georges-de-Beauce, who play out of the famously tough Lige Nord-Americaine de Hockey in Quebec – one of the most physical ice hockey leagues in the world.
The 25-year-old Latvian, who also has experience of top-flight hockey in Denmark, Norway, Slovakia and Italy, last played in a Capitals shirt in the 2015-16 season, when, in a notoriously difficult time for the club, Edinburgh failed to win a game in his 19 starts.
History appears to be repeating itself with Edinburgh currently battling a 12-game losing streak and Kolesnikovs said: “I came in the middle of January, I hadn’t played in a while leading up to that and it was very hard.
“I think this time it will be different, right up until last week I have been playing regularly in Canada and I think I’m in good shape.
“Over there (in the LNAH) there used to be a lot of fighting, things have changed though. they still fight, but not as much.
“It’s a good physical league, and they play more hockey than they used to. There are players of a good calibre who used to play in the American League or NHL. I played with a couple of guys who used to play over here (Carl Lauzon and Martin Gascon).”
The 6ft 4in, 16 stone defenceman continued: “I would say since (playing in the LNAH) I’ve become a more physical player, not really fighting and stuff like that, but just more physical on the ice, throwing hits and just playing harder.
“I’ve always kept in touch with (Capitals owner) Scott Neil. A month ago I made the decision to come back to Europe and was looking at my options, and Edinburgh offered me a deal.
“I know we need to work hard and the position we are in currently, but I want to make my goal this season to work hard and help the team make the play offs. It’s a big ask, but I want to help the squad use that as our target. I am hoping to be in the line up this weekend.”
On Capitals’ current run, Kolesnikovs continued: “We have had guys out injured who are close to returning, we might have a full line-up this weekend and hopefully we can get going.
“There are still guys I know from the last time I was here, I also used to play with the two Latvian guys (Rihards Grigors and Juris Upitis) and I used to play junior in Quebec with Dylan Anderson.
Anderson, who has missed the last eight games after picking up an injury in training, is one of three players close to making a return to the line-up alongside captain Michael D’Orazio and Russian forward Sergei Banashkov. Although young-guns Callum Boyd and Jay King are both nursing knocks and are unlikely to travel south.
Kolesnikovs continued: “It feels good to be back. The Elite League is a good league and the top-teams here really play at a high level.
“I’ve had a full week in training with the guys and I’m just excited to get started playing again.”