EDMONTON - Kirill Tulopov figured it was better to be the windshield than the bug in a puck battle with Ben Eager early in training camp at the Joey Moss Cup.
Considering the spirit of the annual pre-season intra-squad game, Eager was not impressed after being slammed into the boards by the Russian defenceman.
Eager suffered a mild concussion on the play and has yet to suit up for the Oilers in an exhibition game.
“I knew I did something wrong from the moment it happened,” Tulopov said. “Eager wasn’t happy, and then I heard some of the guys saying something from the bench.
“Then when I heard he had a concussion, I felt like an ass. I never meant to do any harm to the organization I’m here with. Right now we’re a team, and we have to take care of each other and I did something that I probably shouldn’t have.”
In Tulopov’s defence, he’s here with the Oilers on a tryout basis and was trying to make an impression.
He also wasn’t sure what the six-foot-two, 235-pound Eager was going to do as the two raced towards the end boards chasing the puck.
“What made me do that was the size of Eager,” said Tulopov. “I saw him in the dressing room and he was huge. And he skates so well.
“I also had an experience in New Jersey, at my second camp, I got injured on the opening day. I under-estimated a guy and he ran me over and I was done.”
Selected by the New Jersey Devils in the third-round — 67th overall — of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Tulopov was invited to the Oilers camp this year on the recommendation of former Russian star Igor Larionov.
On Saturday Tulopov was inserted into the lineup against the Calgary Flames.
“He’s a really strong, firm player, I like what he’s done so far,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney prior to Saturday’s contest. “Where he ends up after this, I’m not really sure. But he skates well, he’s got great range to his game, he moves the puck hard, he can shoot it hard. I’m looking forward to seeing him play and start to draw some conclusions to where his game might be.”
A Moscow native, Tulopov came over to play junior hockey in Canada with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and then Victoriaville Tigres.
When he didn’t sign with the Devils, the six-foot-four, 230-pound defenceman returned to Russia. The 23-year old wants to stay in North America and will do whatever he has to in order to earn a job in the organization.
“I love the North American game, you’re never bored,” Tulopov. “It’s impossible to fall asleep on the blue-line because you always get a chance to shoot on net. In Europe there’s not much shooting from the blue-line even on the power play.”
One of the Oilers biggest concerns heading into the season is their lack of depth on the blue-line. The Oilers can ill-afford injuries at the best of times, but if they lose a couple of their key defencemen, could find themselves in a world of trouble.
Tulopov could help provide depth.
He’s already shown he’s more than capable of taking care of himself against one of the bigger players on the squad.
“In fairness to the guys, the coaching staff was behind the bench at the Joey Moss Cup because we felt we had to, we had lost a day of technical teaching, and looking at our tactics and what we wanted to do,” said Renney. “With that comes the intensity of playing and the instincts that go along with that. In fairness to both guys, it was a puck-battle and one guy won and one guy lost.”