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Why does he look like he’s playing Diablo in his sweatpants? (Photo: @Nail10_1993

I wasn’t the only one impressed by Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s shootout move. Tuesday night after the lowly Edmonton Oilers defeated the Caps 5-4, Nail Yakupov, the first overall pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, tweeted his friend and fellow countryman.

Fedor was nice enough to translate their entire exchange, which surprisingly had nothing to do with late night filings and Ivan Drago.

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Even though Evgeny Kuznetsov is goalless in his last 12 games and scoreless in his last seven, he’s been dangerous lately every time he’s had the puck on his stick. On Wednesday night, the Capitals’ debonair dangler deked Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth onto his rear and scored a most beautiful shootout goal.

(Someone had to do some paralyzing since Matt Hendricks didn’t get an attempt.)

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Photo: Frederick Breedon

Last night, as I wrote about Alex Ovechkin fulfilling the birthday wish of a five-year-old at practice, I noticed something in the bottom left corner of Chuck Gormley’s photo. (My crazy art school eagle eyes see all the pixels.) It was a glove, and that glove had a special inscription.

I fired up the RMNB Enhancing Machine.

Turns out it’s Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s glove and it is stitched with the name KUZY. Take a look.

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In the first half of the season, Evgeny Kuznetsov was a shadow of what he should have been. Learning to play a new position and adjusting to new tactics and a new language, Kuznetsov struggled. He sometimes looked lost in the new Caps system.

But in the last week Evgeny Kuznetsov has looked like a superstar in the making.

Behold these two passes authored by Kuzy in the second period.

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Photo credit: Patrick McDermott

Before this season, Evgeny Kuznetsov had only played sparingly at center in his hockey career. But with the Capitals lacking in center depth, head coach Barry Trotz has tried to convert Kuznetsov and fellow rookie Andre Burakovsky into pivots. Both struggled earlier in the year, with Burakovsky getting scratched and eventually moving back to wing. But Kuznetsov has stuck and is finally adjusting to the new role. Against the Avalanche on Monday night, Kuznetsov was an offensive force, with four shots on net, a shot off the crossbar, and a myriad of drives past the Colorado defense.

“He’s got really good vision, he’s got great hands, and he’s skating well,” Trotz said after the game. “I think his puck protection has been really good, his detail in the D-zone has been really good. You get chances, you’re gonna produce. I think he’s a very talented guy.”

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Photo credit: Chris Gordon

Pretty much every time the Caps face off against a team with Russians, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov hold court with their countrymen in the hallway just off the visitor’s bench.

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Clutch photo by Adam Vingan

Evgeny Kuznetsov played well against Toronto last week. Not one to let his friend get a big head, Russian comrade Alex Ovechkin, knocked him down a peg or two by pranking his post-game press conference. “You can’t speak English,” Ovechkin yelled, picked up by microphones.

You can watch that whole interview on RMNB.

On Monday, Kuznetsov struck back in the weirdest way possible.

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Last night, Peter posted a funny photo of Evgeny Kuznetsov in his game recap. Kuzya’s face was ridiculous, so I made a four-panel zoom-in for our Twitter followers. As I began that process, I discovered something even more ridiculous.

Kuznetsov was wearing Mike Green’s helmet last night.

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When Alex Ovechkin scored his 20th goal of the season — an empty-net tally in the game’s final minute — it unleashed some joking on the bench between him and fellow countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov.

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Team Russia put up a valiant effort but lost to Canada 5-4 in the World Junior Championship. Silver sucks, but they got an awesome consolation prize. The team stuck around for two days in Toronto and hung out with fellow countrymen Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov after the Caps’ morning skate Wednesday.

It looks like it was fun.

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