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Pittsburgh Penguins Forward Radim Zohorna Talks NHL Return, Team Dynamics, and Jagr Ceremony

You now have more starts (19) in a season for Pittsburgh than your season high (17) in 2021-22. So you already feel like an NHL player who shouldn’t be shuttling between the first team and the farm?

I think yes. I didn’t feel in my skin for a few games, I had back problems and I didn’t play at 100 percent. But it’s better, I should just score a little again. It’s not going well in the last few games.

How was your comeback to the Penguins after you left for a year?

Drew O’Connor and Pierre-Olivier Joseph probably welcomed me the most. The guys I’ve been with since the beginning actually. But we welcomed everyone. I was really glad to be here again.

Kyle Dubas came to the club as the new boss. Did you have any idea that the Penguins would want you again?

I didn’t have the information, I rather hoped for it and wanted it back. But the decision was made only at the beginning of July after the opening of the free market. A few interested parties were there, everything happened from hour to hour.

How will you remember the last season spent in Canada?

Like a past that I don’t deal with and don’t think about.

Didn’t you think that all the work you did for Pittsburgh on the farm and in the A’s was a little off?

I didn’t want to leave, but they put me on the waiver list and Calgary reached out to me there. So I moved.

Have the Penguins changed much in that year?

A couple of guys are new here. Honza Rutta left for San Jose again… But the system is still the same, only with new details. But Kyle brought new people into management who are trying to help us as much as possible.

So far this season you have collected three goals and assists. What numbers would you take at the end of it?

Like I said, I’ve been unlucky for a few games now. It would like something to fall there, because we have a chance for that with our line. But the NHL is a really tough league, it’s not easy.

You play in the 3rd attack with the Danish center Lars Eller, for whom Tomáš Plekanec was a role model in Montreal and Jaroslav Špaček allegedly taught him dirty words. Can he still do them?

Maybe I’ll ask. (laughs) But we only talked in English so far. Anyway, he is a very experienced player who has almost 1000 games in the NHL. He sees the game well, holds the puck, can play.

What about running back John Ludvig? He has a Czech dad after all.

He doesn’t speak much Czech either. But I consider him a Czech, I make fun of him and he doesn’t like to hear it. But I have already heard some dirty words in Czech from him. (Laughs)

In Pittsburgh, you have the unique opportunity to play on one team with four Hall of Fame-bound players. Erik Karlsson joined Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in the summer. What impression did he make on you during those two months of the season?

It’s a lot of fun with him, you can really hear a lot in the cabin. But he can also give advice and is absolutely incredible in attack. You have a much better chance to score when Erik is on the ice.

Tomáš Hertl said about him in San Jose that he will never give you a pass in a vulnerable position. If you get the puck from him and keep your head down, you’re not in danger.

It fits. He can seize the right moment and the ideal place for teammates.

With Karlsson, you recently also experienced his return to San Jose, for whom you scored ten goals on his ice. Have you ever seen a club in the NHL that was so low?

Maybe a few years ago, Buffalo, which did not yet have such a talented team. They were the same way. The Sharks have had a rough start, but when Karlsson leaves, scoring 100 points in a season and running power plays, you can tell. But Hertlík pulls them and they slowly rise.

In the meantime, you’ve reminded yourself how great the competition is in the Metropolitan Division. Which of the opponents caught your attention the most?

I was mainly surprised by Philadelphia, they play really well. Then of course the Rangers, but Washington is also doing well. All eight teams would like to finish in the top four. Every point matters.

But you have one extra weapon against your competition. Goalkeepers who score goals.

(Laughs) That’s true. A few weeks ago, Alex Nedeljkovic was hit on the farm, who was catching up there. And now Tristan Jarry did it against Tampa. It was great to see it live. We also celebrated like we won the Stanley Cup.

You should also experience further glory on February 18, when the Penguins will ceremonially hang up Jaromir Jagr’s number 68. You are looking forward?

Our generation grew up on Jagr and Pittsburgh. We had him as an idol, we admired him. And being there when he hangs up his jersey should be a great experience. It’s unbelievable what he’s done here in Pittsburgh. Everyone here knows it.

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