Rookie Skrastins shows veteran poise with Nashville

Originally published on in 2000

By Lucas Aykroyd

Few players on the Nashville Predators qualify as household names, and Karlis Skrastins isn’t one of them—yet. But since he scored his first NHL goal on 26 December against St. Louis, the 25-year-old Latvian defenseman has shown he’s ready to take a regular NHL shift. In a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place on 23 January, the rookie from Riga logged 20:51 of ice time, second only to Drake Berehowsky among the youthful Nashville blueline corps. Chosen 230th overall in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Skrastins was a gamble that paid off for the Nashville scouting staff, as he became the first Predators draft pick to appear in an NHL game. Skrastins has appeared in 25 games this year, scoring 1-3-4, which is an improvement on his 2 games and 1 assist last year. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, this stay-at-home defender is a rugged customer. Skrastins spoke with EuroReport’s Lucas Aykroyd while holding an ice pack on a purplish-green bruise under his right eye.

EuroReport: How did you get the bruise?

Karlis Skrastins: I got hit by a stick in the first period. I don’t know who did it. It might have been one of our guys. It hurts pretty bad.

EuroReport: On a brighter note, you’ve nailed down a spot in the Nashville lineup. How do you think you’re playing so far?

Skrastins: Well, for my second season in North America, I feel good. The coach trusts me and I have a lot of ice time. Everything’s fine.

EuroReport: You led Milwaukee’s defense in scoring last year with 44 points. What style do you try to play as a defenseman at the NHL level?

Skrastins: I play just defense. I work hard and try to play the same way every game. Scoring numbers aren’t important to me.

EuroReport: Tell me about how your career’s developed.

Skrastins: I started playing hockey when I was five years old. When I got older, I played for Dynamo Riga, and then I played two years for TPS Turku in the Finnish League. I spent last year with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL.

EuroReport: Who was a big influence for you in the early days?

Skrastins: I had lots of coaches who helped me in different ways. Vladimir Yurzinov [ex-Dynamo Moscow] was a big help when I was with TPS. He brought me to Finland after seeing me play in the B pool with Latvia in Bratislava.

EuroReport: Who was your favorite player when you were a kid?

Skrastins: There were lots, but I liked Helmut Balderis. He was one of the great Latvian stars. He was good even when he got older.

EuroReport: Do you know Sandis Ozolinsh and Arturs Irbe?

Skrastins: Yeah, I’ve played with those guys on the Latvian national team. We’ve spent time together in Riga. Irbe was great when it came to telling me about how hockey and life off the ice is in North America. It really is different.

EuroReport: How did that year with Milwaukee help you to adjust over here?

Skrastins: We had two very good assistant coaches in Al Sims and Claude Noel. Claude coaches defensemen well. He gave me lots of help. It was good I went there, because I got to adjust to the North American style.

EuroReport: Is it strange for you to be playing hockey in a city like Nashville?

Skrastins: Not really. It’s the NHL, so there are lots of superstars around me. But it’s hockey. The puck’s the same everywhere. Digg it Furl iFeedReaders Netscape RawSugar reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo MyWeb YardBarker

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