PUSHKAREV 'PUSHING' TEAMMATES...AND OPPONENTS
It was the first-period hit that Pushkarev levied on fellow rookie Jan Hejda that had head coach Marc Crawford gushing about his rookie forward on Monday night.
"He may not be the biggest guy in the world but he plays physical and he uses what ever energy he's got," he said. "You like that sort of contribution and hopefully it will inspire some of our other guys to play with that type of determination.
"He is a very physical player with great leg strength and is a wiry guy. When you are wiry like he is, you will surprise people."
Listed at 6-0 and 180 pounds, the 21-year-old right winger was recalled from Manchester on Jan. 4 when Scott Thornton, a very physical forward himself, was placed on injured reserve.
Pushy, as his teammates call him, had scored 4-11-15 in 29 games prior to the call up. The Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native is in his second pro season after spending the 2005-06 campaign in Manchester, scoring 19-19-38 in 77 games under the tutelage of Monarchs head coach Mark Morris.
"He has that physical element in his game and that ability to lower his shoulder when he has to," Morris said. "He has shown some explosive power and is a very strong skater."
While acknowledging Pushkarev's physicality, Morris is quick to point out that the young forward is a gifted playmaker and offensive talent.
"He is very creative and very deceptive and does a great job of waiting out goaltenders and defenders. He always seems to find ways to put the puck in the right spot.
"He is intelligent and as he continues to grow and learn, he is going to become a force to be reckoned with."
Kings fans can attest to that. Pushkarev has scored 1-1-2 in his first three games with the Kings over the last two seasons.
The Kings second-round draft selection (44th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, earned an assist in his NHL debut against the Canucks on March 27 of last season, and after his recall last week, went scoreless against the Red Wings setting up his first NHL goal on Monday night against the Oilers.
With Los Angeles down a goal in the third period, Lubomir Visnovsky put a shot on net that Pushkarev redirected past Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson to tie the game and breathe new life into his teammates.
"I didn't think about [scoring]," Pushkarev said when reflecting on his goal. "I was trying to screen the goalie and I was able to deflect it and hit the puck."
Into the back of the net the rubber disc went before being retrieved by his teammates as a keepsake for the young forward.
"I just keep [the puck] as close as possible in the dressing room," the soft spoken Pushkarev said. "It is my first NHL goal and [the puck] can be right next to my first NHL point."
Perhaps the first of many points for Pushkarev.
"He looks to get open and did a great job of getting open in front of the net for that goal," Crawford said. "Those types of guys have a nose for the net. We need that type of player in our lineup."