News & Observer Interview with Carolina Hurricanes Defenseman Anton Babchuk

Three questions: Anton Babchuk

Defenseman Anton Babchuk is back with the Hurricanes after playing last season for Avangard Omsk in the Russian Superliga, signing a one-year, $1 million contract.

During the 2006-2007 season, Babchuk was briefly suspended by the Hurricanes when he refused an assignment with the AHL’s Albany River Rats. He relented and reported to Albany, and was later recalled by the Canes. But after the season, the Kiev native left for Omsk.

Here’s what Babchuk had to say this week.

Q: When you left for Russia, did you ever envision a return to the Canes?

A: “I always hoped I’d get another chance to play here. I felt if I played well over there, I’d get the chance. And it’s happened and I’m excited abut it.”

Q: Was it tempting to just stay in the Russia and continue to play?

A: “I played in Omsk. It’s kind of funny. (Former Canes goalie) John Grahame goes to that team and I go here. We kind of switched.

“When the season was over, the Omsk team gave me an offer for even more cash money than here. But like I said, I wanted to play in the NHL, in the best league against the best players.”

Q: Do you feel your game changed noticeably during the year away?

A: “I think I improved. Last year, I played with the first unit, in all situations — PP (power play), PK (penalty kill), got a lot of ice time. I played all the games in the season and the playoffs. So I think my game is improved since the last time I was here.

“When you get older and more mature, you know how to handle it better when a bad game happens. It’s just one game, it’s a long season. You have good games, have bad games. As you get older and older, you know how to get away from (a bad game) and make sure your game gets better and better.”