Elvis Merzlikins is drinking through a firehose.
Being hyped as a potential starting goaltender for a playoff-contending team (as a rookie) is anxiety-provoking enough, but to be making that transition from playing European hockey? What a situation for the young Latvian.
Not to worry, though. The newest Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender is ready to take on the challenge, and that starts tonight in his first preseason game for the club.
"I think its more fun to play hockey here than in Europe," Merzlikins said after a morning skate on Thursday. "The shots are coming quicker, the play is quicker, everything is quicker. You don't have that much time to rest. I think it's more fun here. It's different hockey."
One of the biggest differences in play style behind the hockey Merzlikins was used to in Switzerland for HC Lugano is the rink size. Olympic-sized rinks are listed at 200ft x 100ft (overseas) and his new home in NHL-sized rinks is 200ft x 85ft.
"I hate to lose, I don't know how to lose, I don't accept the loss."– Elvis Merzlikins
Along with the new rink size comes playing against elite talent of NHL players, which Merzlikins commented on that "everyone is a Patrick Kane" in North America, compared to his days in the Swiss League.
At the end of the day, though, Merzlikins is taking on the new challenge and environment "step by step" and "day by day." That's music to John Tortorella's ears already.
"There was a lot of new information at the moment when I came here, where you have to think about it. It's almost too much information," said Merzlikins. "Things are getting better. I'm not that guy that's going to judge. We're going to see. I feel better than I was in Traverse City."
Which is impressive, considering he started off the Traverse City tournament earlier this month with this play in route to a 29-save victory.
The expectations for Merzlikins to be a future face-of-franchise goaltender for the Blue Jackets are in full-go, and you know the 26-year-old won't be one to take his play lightly, even if we're still in the preseason. He's a fiery competitor and his reputation precedes him.
"I'm just trying to play my game and get more comfortable and get more ready for the real season games. I want to win the (preseason) games now. I hate to lose. I don't know how to lose, I don't accept the loss," said Merzlikins. "We can even win, but if I play bad for me, we lost, I lost. Not the team – I lost."
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