Artemi Panarin stood alongside friend and teammate Viktor Tikhonov, who’s doubled as Panarin’s translator during his first few weeks here.
So learning English, how’s that going?
“What?” Panarin said himself to laughs before deferring to Tikhonov to translate the rest of his answer.
“He thought it was going to be easier,” Tikhonov said.
What has been easier for the 23-year-old Russian is getting back up to speed after an upper-body injury sidelined him for nearly two weeks. Panarin, through Tikhonov, said he feels “better than he expected” when he practiced with the Blackhawks on Friday. And now there’s a chance he could play in the team’s preseason finale against the Dallas Stars on Saturday.
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Panarin was on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on Friday, and he could be there again against the Stars. Coach Joel Quenneville, who said it was doubtful Panarin would play any preseason games at all a few days ago, sounded much more optimistic on Friday.
“These last couple of days, two days with Kaner, Arty looks like there’s something there,” Quenneville said. “He really looked good today, and it was noticeable yesterday. The kid’s got some jump to his game and I like how he snaps pucks and we’re looking forward to seeing him playing.”
Panarin’s only played a day or two with Anisimov and Kane, but he didn’t sound worried about adjusting.
“They're really talented players and really experienced,” Tikhonov translated. “He knows they'll definitely help him out and he's going to try help out the line and make everyone better.”
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Kane said there’s no doubt Panarin has the talent.
“As you can tell he’s very skilled,” Kane said. “He’s got a nice little quick release to him and also very good stick-handler and skater. So you can tell the skill’s all there. It’s top notch, as far as I’m concerned.”
Panarin’s foray into English hasn’t produced results as quickly as he would’ve hoped. He’s still working on that, from Skyping with a teacher to trying his best to speak English when he goes into stores. The on-ice transition has been smoother, to a degree. He’ll get a better idea of where he is there on Saturday.
“He's not too worried about the adjustment. He's more worried about getting in shape and starting the season,” Tikhonov said for Panarin. “He said everything that he's been working on this summer he's kind of had to start over. The season's long too. It's going to be tough. He knows it.”