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Translations by Tomas Jandik
If Dzhegr comes back to Pittsburgh, he will have to live in a hotel, Sykora laughs (MF Dnes interview) - 27-Jan-09


When he got a question whether in case of Jaromir Jagrís return, he, as a tenant in Jagrís house, would have to look for a new housing arrangement, Petr Sykora laughed out loud: ďDzhegr would have to live in a hotel, the poor fella.Ē Other than that, though, Sykoraís mood has been clouded by the distrust of the coach Therrien. Even though he helped to beat NY Rangers with a goal and an assist on Sunday, he spent a lot of time sitting on the bench. ďHere itís a constant battle with the coach, whether he letís you play,Ē said 32-year old Sykora.

Q: And on Sunday, he had not let you play according to your wishes. How does it look like, does Therrien let you know prior to a game, how much you would be playing?

A: No, not at all. Sometimes you play almost the whole game, he sends you on the ice all the time. Then another game comes Ė and boom, you sit on the bench. You are getting cold; then you donít want to even go on the ice anymore.

Q: How do you cope with that? Especially considering you are the third most productive player on the roster, behind Malkin and Crosby?

A: One has to get used to constantly playing with somebody else every shift; being rotated all the time. You simply have to learn to get the most out of every situation when the coach lets you play.

Q: This season you managed to score your first NHL hat-trick. What other milestones are in front of you?

A: Itís extremely tough to say, because you get to play in two games and you think you will be able to play all the time. And then comes a game like the one against the Rangers, and you get 10 minutes of ice-time. If the coach lets me play alongside Malkin, Iíd like to score 30 goals, right now I got 17.

Q: Are you satisfied with that?

A: I had not scored during the 4 previous games, but I had played my best hockey of the season. I had 3-4 missed chances during each of those matches. Against Rangers, it finally went in. And we won. So far, I keep hitting the net during important moments. I hope it continues like this.

Q: Pittsburgh has been struggling since the beginning of the new year and eventually even fell out of the play-off spots. All that while you were one of this seasonís favorites following the last Stanley Cup finals. Does this situation impact the team a lot?

A: Of course the atmosphere is rather tense here. Everybody expected more. But when you play so long up until the finals, it is tougher to play on the same level the next year. You are tired, there is no time to heal your injuries during the summer. Basically the whole team is then somewhat slower, and injury-prone.

Q: So you did expect such a slide?

A: Certainly. I am not surprised. The league is very balanced. When you are a little slower, and have injuries, then you start losing. Just look at the teams that lost during the first or the second round of the playoffs such as New Jersey, Philadelphia or Rangers. They are successful, on the roll. We have a lot of injuries, half of the current roster is from the minors.

Q: Your two key defensemen had been injured for a long time. Whitney has already been playing, when will Gonchar come back?

A: After a long time, 6 to 8 weeks. When you have a D-man who can carry a puck, or safely keeps it during the power play, who is not afraid to beat an opponent one-on-one and then pass, that stuff makes a difference. What helped us was the return of Whitney. Until then we had 6 D-men who took a puck and threw in on the plexiglass. And we were then chasing that puck like idiots.

Q: How does it look like in Pittsburgh when the atmosphere is tense?

A: Like everywhere else where the team keeps losing. You come to a practice, and you feel that the atmosphere is bad. The coaches donít talk to you, they just yell. I hope things will turn.

Q: Your biggest team stars are very young. So they donít speak up much, right?

A: Itís a little different in here, when itís necessary to say something, itís usually us veterans talking. But Crosby, even though he is young, can talk, too.

Q: But the losses have made him quite visibly nervous, right?

A: Itís the frustration that the team is not successful. Apparently he has not expected that we would be limping around the 9th place, either. One has to cope with it, to survive the times when things go wrong.

Q: What do you think about his involvement in fights?

A: NHL changed in this aspect. In the past, we had two lines in New Jersey that scored goals, the other two fought. Now teams have just one player who fights. Or none. So now, when the team needs a jump start, itís players who usually donít fight that have to get involved. Like our Ukrainian forward Fedotenko. He fought for maybe the third time in his life, and broke his hand.

Q: What if it was your turn to get into a fight?

A: Then one would obviously have to do something about it. But I am not the type of a player who would skate on the ice and ask opponents whether they want to brawl.

Q: You won three of the last 4 games. Did this help your coach Therrien, or is his firing still being discussed?

A: I donít know. The newspapers publish some things, but ultimately itís up to the manager and Mario, they will decide. I donít know much about that stuff. Everybody expected that we will be a top three team in the conference, the pressure is here.

Q: What was your reaction to Jaromir Jagrís quote that if Mario Lemieux called him, he would return back to Pittsburgh sometime in the future?

A: Just the first day we discussed it a little bit with the guys in the locker room. I donít even know whether Dzhegr and Mario call or are in contact with each other.

Q: Did not Mario Lemieux ask the players whether they would welcome Jagrís return?

A: I saw Mario maybe just three times since the start of the year. He is rather quiet, comes in to say hello, asks whether everything is OK. But that he would ask for an advice regarding Dzhegr Ė not a chance.

Q: If Jagr returned back, he would be able to help you with the role of the translator of the Russian star Malkin, right?

A: {smiles} I donít mind that at all, me and Zhenia are great friends. At least thanks to him I learned how to speak top-notch Russian.

Q: So maybe you would go to play in Russia again?

A: Iíd like to play in the NHL for 2-3 more years. I think I still have results, I am still successful. Iíd like to stay. [Playing in] Russia does not attract me much anymore.

Q: How does Malkin deal with the rivalry with another Russian superstar Ovechkin? Did it have an impact on him before the match with Washington?

A: Not at all, he does not care. Everybody knows they donít like each other, but it is not the case that he would prepare any differently for that match. He does not talk about Ovechkin at all, itís just the papers and TV that do this.

Q: So you two donít talk about [Ovechkin] much?

A: Zhenia is such a quiet guy. I know him well; I would know if there were anything between him and Ovechkin. Ovechkin tends to hit a lot, he tried hit Zhenia twice or three times the last year, but they donít have problems with each other.

Q: Your contract in Pittsburgh is up after this season, have you and the team already discussed the new one?

A: Itís still too soon, just preliminarily. We discussed that I would like to continue playing here.

Q: So you are clear about that. What keeps you in Pittsburgh the most?

A: Malkin.

Q: That was a clear answer.

A: Iíd like to keep playing with him. So that apparently keeps me here the most.

Q: What would be your biggest praise regarding Malkin?

A: He is exceptional because he can take a puck, beats an opponent, and he still sees you. He can see you regardless where on the ice you are, even when two players guard him. He can pass to me like nobody ever before. And he is a nice guy who does not criticize you when things go wrong. He is not like some other stars who are constantly upset. He is OK all the time, cool, no problem.

Q: Typically, itís the younger players who want to stay because of some teamís experienced star, basically a playing legend. Say, like if you were 18 and you wanted to stay in Pittsburgh because of Lemieux.

A: Zhenia may be young, but he is really super. I canít say a bad word about him.

Q: Have you ever argued?

A: No, we havenít. Occasionally we yell at each other for fun, but we really donít fight.

Tomas Jandik is the resident Czech on LetsGoPens.com and is a man who unifies all the goodies of the American dream - meaning, of course, being a Pitt graduate, a Razorback, and a Penguins fan.

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