Devils vs. Hurricanes
Tracking the Storm

Semin Showcasing World-Class Talent in Home Country

Sunday, 02.16.2014 / 9:00 AM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Semin Showcasing World-Class Talent in Home Country
The Canes, especially Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty, are happy to have Semin\'s world-class abilities -- and Team Russia probably is too. is providing complete coverage of the four Canes players participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Player Features: Justin Faulk | Andrej Sekera | Tuomo Ruutu | Game Recaps: Semifinals, Feb. 21 | Quarterfinals, Feb. 19 | Qualification, Feb. 18 | Prelims, Feb. 16 | Prelims, Feb. 14-15 | Prelims, Feb. 13 | Related Links: Olympic Viewing Guide | Printable Broadcast Schedule | Full Schedule, Results & Stats

Michael Smith
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On the right side is Alexander Semin (or Syomin, as it reads on his sweater). Opposite is Alexander Ovechkin. In the middle, Evegni Malkin.

It’s as daunting and as skilled a line that can be found in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. And to think, Semin almost wasn’t even a part of it.

Now a two-time Olympian, Semin was a curious omission from the Russian roster when it was announced in early January.

“He was good. When you watch that, it’s tough to see him not playing for the Russians,” teammate Riley Nash said after a 3-2 Hurricanes win in mid-January in which Semin scored twice in the third period. “I think he’s one of the best talents in the world. When he plays hard, he’s one of my favorite players to watch, that’s for sure. He’s a real treat to watch, especially on a night like tonight.”

The Russian national team would, three days later, add Semin to its roster.

“Nothing surprises me with what Alex can do. He is a very special talent. It’s just a matter of him being healthy,” Canes President and General Manager Jim Rutheford said. “He missed most of training camp with his wrist [injury], and he’s fought some [other] injuries. But when he’s healthy and going, he’s a special player.”

On a line with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty – perhaps not as dexterous as the Russian national team line, but still one of the best in the NHL, undoubtedly – Semin has picked up his production of late with the Hurricanes. He ranks fourth on the team in scoring with 29 points, 19 of which have come in his last 21 games. That stretch also includes a five-game point streak and a six-game point streak, which featured six goals in a four-game goal streak.

“Yeah, now that he’s become healthy after the concussion, now he’s picked up his game,” head coach Kirk Muller said. “His points are coming, and the line has been better. That’s what we need. You need your best players to perform, and he’s starting to perform at a better level right now.”

“Before we got him, we knew he was a high-skilled player who could score goals and bring a lot of offense to a team,” Tlusty said. “He’s been working really hard. When he does that, he’s one of the best players out there. He’s a skilled guy with the puck.”

What makes him such a threat is multi-faceted. For one, his shot – whether it’s a quick snapper off the rush or a booming slapshot from the top of the circle – is an absolute howitzer that is near-impossible for many goalies to stop.

“His ability to get shots off, and if it gets off, it’s got a good chance of going in because it’s such a hard shot. He’s one of those guys that can break a game when you need a goal,” Staal said, also crediting Semin’s reach. “He was tough to play against, and it’s a lot better having him on our side.”

Semin is also a big body. At 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, he can be tough to knock off the puck.

“I remember playing against him when he was in Washington. It’s really impossible to take the puck from him,” Tlusty said. “He’s smart, and he’s got a big body, too. He protects the puck well, and he reads the puck well.”

Don’t sleep on his playmaking skills, either.

“I think all offensive guys – guys that are counted on to score goals – are underrated with their passing,” Staal said. “You need to be able to move the puck to open yourself up for shots. He definitely can do that. He likes to draw people to him and make plays. He’s gifted offensively.”

“We wish he’d be shooting more because his shot is something else, but he proved to us last year that he’s not only a goal scorer and he can make a lot of nice plays,” Tlusty said with a smile.

And Tlusty would know, as the receiver of Semin’s highlight-reel, behind-the-back pass that slipped through the defender’s leg and onto Tlusty’s stick for the goal past a sprawling Ondrej Pavelec.

“That was pretty. We were even talking about it with Pavelec a couple nights ago,” Tlusty said, almost a year after it happened. “The things that he does, he’s really good at it.”

Off the ice, the Krasnoyarsk native now has a teammate in Anton Khudobin with whom he can converse in his native tongue – though, by now, Tlusty said the locker room probably knows a bit of Russian.

“He’ll usually yell at us in Russian. I know a few,” Tlusty said, noting there are some similar words in the Czech language. “Everyone can probably swear in Russian now. Sometimes he’ll start yelling and he’s already laughing, and you have no idea what he’s saying.”

“Like anyone, he gets into it, and he uses his native tongue,” Staal said. “He’s been good in the room, and I think he’s opened up a lot here in the last year-and-a-half.”

And how about his English? He doesn’t flex it much with the media, but it’s there.

“He knows his English,” Staal asserted. “He sometimes doesn’t use it as often as he can, but he definitely understands English with no problem. It’s fine that way.”

The Russian team, linemates Ovechkin and Malkin included, is probably glad to have Semin in his home country on the world’s biggest stage for the 29-year-old’s 10th major international tournament. The Canes are happy to have him, as well.

“He’s a tremendous talent. He’s a guy that’s proven to the league that he can contribute offensively on a yearly basis. As of late, he’s been playing real strong for us,” Staal said. “He can be a difference maker, and it’s been fun to play with that type of talent on my line.”

“He’s an easy-going guy,” Tlusty said. “We sit beside each other (in the locker room), so we joke around quite a bit over here. We’re good buddies. It’s been fun.”




1 x - NYR 73 47 19 7 224 168 101
2 MTL 75 46 21 8 197 167 100
3 TBL 75 46 22 7 244 194 99
4 NYI 75 44 26 5 228 208 93
5 PIT 74 40 23 11 204 186 91
6 DET 73 39 22 12 212 201 90
7 WSH 74 40 24 10 215 182 90
8 OTT 73 37 25 11 213 195 85
9 BOS 74 36 25 13 195 193 85
10 FLA 74 34 26 14 184 202 82
11 PHI 75 30 29 16 196 216 76
12 NJD 74 31 31 12 166 189 74
13 CBJ 73 34 35 4 198 228 72
14 CAR 73 27 36 10 170 201 64
15 TOR 75 27 42 6 194 241 60
16 BUF 74 20 46 8 141 249 48


E. Staal 68 20 27 -13 47
J. Faulk 73 14 32 -18 46
E. Lindholm 72 16 20 -21 36
J. Skinner 68 18 12 -22 30
V. Rask 71 11 19 -12 30
R. Nash 67 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 69 7 17 -13 24
J. McClement 73 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 45 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 37 4 15 -9 19
C. Ward 19 21 5 .910 2.43
A. Khudobin 8 15 5 .903 2.62