New Pittsburgh Penguins forward Alex Galchenyuk speaks fine English with a Russian accent. He was born in Milwaukee, raised partly in Russia but has been in North America for several years.
He was losing his grasp of Russian but hopes that will change from being around Penguins center and potential linemate Evgeni Malkin.
“Even though it’s my first language, it’s something I don’t use that much,” Galchenyuk said Tuesday after skating with several teammates in an informal pre-camp practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports complex. “It’s always nice to brush up on it. I only talk to my parents and my sister (in Russian) so it’s slowly getting worse and worse. So I’ve got to catch up with ‘Geno’.”
Judging from videos of some of his slick moves during summer workouts posted on social media and his description of his offseason training, Galchenyuk’s skills have suffered no such erosion:
“I did a lot of different things throughout the summer,” he said. “You’re always trying to improve on your weaknesses. But this summer was definitely completely different – a lot of work to pay attention to every single detail on your body and on the ice.”
One day skating during the summer skating near Miami, Galchenyuk ran into Malkin, who was training at the same rink. The two hadn’t met before other than being opponents in NHL games.
“We were just skating at a similar time,” Galchenyuk said. “We met and just said, ‘Let’s skate together tomorrow.’ That’s how it happened.”
Now the two are teammates and stallmates with the Penguins.
Galchenyuk, 25, has 127 goals and 296 points in 490 games with Montreal and one season in Arizona. He will forever be known as a guy who came to the Penguins in the Phil Kessel trade.
Like Kessel before him, Galchenyuk could end up as a winger on Malkin’s line. That seems likely to be where he will line up when Penguins training opens Friday.
There’s no guarantee he will stick there. He could also get a chance to see how he might mesh with center Sidney Crosby.
“Those guys you look up to before you even get into the league, and then compete against them,” Galchenyuk said of his new superstar teammates. “But now with them on the same team is surreal. It’s definitely something really exciting. I’m looking forward to learning from guys like that.”
That will start in earnest Friday.
“It’s a really competitive team. There’s no secret about that,” Galchenyuk said. “Everybody wants to prepare themselves to have a really successful year. I’m sure it’s going to be a hard training camp, but that’s what you need.
“No matter how hard you train in the offseason, you’ve still got to get your skating legs and skating movements. It’s going to be fun.”