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Mukhamadullin Talks Tripping Before Solo NHL Debut Lap, Joking With Rutta

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Credit: San Jose Sharks

Shakir Mukhamadullin’s first NHL game didn’t start as planned. 

And no, we aren’t talking about his performance in the actual game. The San Jose Sharks lost 5-2 to the Buffalo Sabres, but Mukhamadullin showed well with a game-leading nine shot attempts and even paced the team in shifts (28 and 19:21 on the ice.)

It was his NHL debut solo lap during the warmups — when he almost fell on the ice.

“I was just talking to Barabanov about it,” Mukhamadullin explained in Russian after Saturday’s game. “The boards here in SAP Center are a little higher than in Tech CU Arena. So when I stepped on the ice, I was a little confused why my leg wasn’t on the ice yet. Well, at least I didn’t fall. Didn’t make the highlights!” 

Of course, the game itself wasn’t easy for the 22-year-old defenseman. He said his first shift was the hardest as he was still dealing with nerves. 

The San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn, however, liked his first seconds in the NHL: 

“He stepped up, made a hit, skated, poise,” Quinn said. “You can see why he was the first round draft pick we acquired.”

Mukhamadullin played with Jan Rutta who is 12 years older than him. Rutta, who started this season playing with another young Russian defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk, is now helping Mukhamadullin adjust to the NHL level. 

“We talked with each other, discussed some little things,” Mukhamadullin told us about Rutta’s support. “He said, ‘Use your legs, just play the way you always play.’”

Mukhamadullin is playing his first full season in North America. But even though he’s still learning English, he isn’t quiet in the San Jose Sharks locker room. Logan Couture in his Saturday post-game interview mentioned that Mukhamadullin even jokes with his teammates. 

Sharks Locker Room: Eklund & Mukhamadullin Shine, But Winning Streak Snapped

Mukhamadullin said that he exchanges most of these jokes with Rutta: 

“We just laugh a little, nothing special. Rutta knows some words and phrases in Russian, so we laugh when he uses them. But we mostly talk about hockey.” 

Another aspect many NHL debutants find tough to get used to is the speed of the game. But Mukhamadullin didn’t see much difference between the AHL and NHL. 

“The speed is actually more or less the same. Just the guys here are more skilled, they better use their space, they’re better from a tactical standpoint.” 

Mukhamadullin noted that it’s up to the coaching staff to grade his first NHL game performance. He added that he knows what he needs to work on: 

“As soon as I moved to San Jose, I knew what I needed to improve—my physical game. That’s what I’m trying to do now. Trying to get better defensively and physically.” 

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