Victor Antipin is quickly gaining a reputation as studious guy. That's good because he has little choice.
No Buffalo player is experiencing more of a culture change than Antipin. The defenseman from Kazakhstan arrived with almost no knowledge of English. Having played his entire career in his Russia, he's adjusting to a smaller rink and completely different style of play.
Needless to say, it's a lot. The 24-year-old is handling it better than could be expected.
"He's a student of the game," Sabres coach Phil Housley said in HarborCenter. "He really absorbs a lot, likes to watch a lot of video trying to understand our concepts. He's like a sponge, and it's great to see."
On the ice, Antipin (pronounced "an-TEE-pihn") has formed a bond with assistant coach Chris Hajt. Off it, he's leaning on forward Vasily Glotov, who is from Russia, and Chris Bandura, the Sabres' vice president of media relations. They've helped him learn English and get ready for interviews.
"He wants to learn," Glotov said Saturday. "He wants to be better. He wants to be in the NHL full time. That's his goal, and if you want to be here you have to have better communication. He's working on it."
Glotov is impressed that Antipin doesn't want to use a translator for his talks. The defenseman wants to dive in and swim on his own, which he did after Saturday's workout.
"My English is not good, but I learn every day," said Antipin, who added a similar thought on the adjustment to North American rinks. "In the NHL, it's more fast, more quick. I think yes, it's different, but every day I feel better and better."
During the opening two days of training camp, Antipin was paired with Justin Falk, a stay-at-home defender. It's a nice complement since Antipin has skating ability and a mind for offense. During last year's Kontinental Hockey League playoffs, he had seven goals and 11 points in 18 games.
Once he settles in, he should be a solid fit for Housley's brand of hockey. In fact, during Antipin's studies, he looked up Housley.
"He was a very good player," Antipin said. "He played like me. I like to play this hockey."