Alexei Yashin doesn't want to make the game any bigger than it is, or should be.
Yes, he said, NHL teams have not been to Russia in 20 years. Yes, SKA St. Petersburg playing the Carolina Hurricanes in an exhibition game Monday in St. Petersburg, Russia -- as part of the 2010 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge -- should make for an exciting, intriguing game.
"But it's just one game, not a series," Yashin said in an interview. "For both teams there are more important games ahead."
For the Canes, it will be one last exhibition game before starting the regular season Thursday in Helsinki. For Yashin and SKA St. Petersburg, it will be a break in the KHL regular season after playing its first 11 games.
"But the players will be serious about it," Yashin said. "It will be a good test for both teams."
Yashin, 36, starred for the Ottawa Senators and New York Islanders in an NHL career that began in 1993 and lasted until he left for Russia in 2007. Not that his time in the NHL ended amicably on the Island (or in Ottawa). The Islanders bought out the remainder of his contract in 2007, reportedly for more than $17 million.
Yashin returned to Russia, where the three-time Olympian first played in the Russia Super League and then the KHL, joining SKA St. Petersburg last season.
Yashin said he was sad to hear that an old comrade, the Canes' Sergei Samsonov, would not be able to play in Monday's game. Samsonov, a Moscow native, suffered a neck sprain in a preseason game against Atlanta and was not cleared to make the trip.
"We played together for Russia in the World Championships, actually on the same line, about 15 years ago," Yashin said.
Yashin said he knows little about the Canes and their lineup other than Eric Staal is the captain, top-line center and offensive leader and Cam Ward will be in goal.
"I know they did not do as well as they wanted last year but they have some stars in their lineup," he said. "For Carolina it's an exhibition game in which they will be trying to pull their game together and prepare for the season. For us it will be interesting."
Yashin said the larger ice surface at the Ice Palace (Ledovy Arena) could favor the home team.
"We play a different game because it's a different ice surface," he said. "Even the top players in the NHL can have trouble adjusting to the larger Russian style rinks and hockey."
As for all the hype surrounding the game, which begins at 11 a.m, Yashin said he has tried to ignore it.
"Reporters will be trying to compare the KHL and NHL, which is better, as if one game can affect their minds," he said. "I think the game will be good for both leagues and for hockey. It is another way of bringing hockey to more people in the world.
"It will be good for the people here. It has been a long time since the NHL has brought a team here and people can see their style of play, not just on TV but in real life. It should be an exciting game."