I catch up with Joe Pavelski on Monday just after he's had another nice dinner in Minsk.
"The food’s good here," the San Jose Sharks center told ESPN.com over a crackling phone line. "There are five restaurants that we go to, pretty much. We rotate among them, and it’s quite good."
Life in Belarus has been a learning experience for the Wisconsin native, but he has kept an open mind.
"It hasn't been bad; it’s been fun in a lot of ways," said the Team USA Olympian. "It’s been really nice having Pekka Rinne and Tim Stapleton here, gotten along good with them. There’s enough English-speaking players on the team to get by, joke around enough and feel comfortable."
It’s not perfect, of course. He’s had to leave behind in San Jose his wife and 2-year-old son.
"That was a big decision that we had to make," Pavelski said, but one that he felt necessary to stay in game shape. "With the 11-hour time [difference from San Jose], you usually do some FaceTime with them in the morning and before you go to bed. It’s definitely tough now to miss the holidays coming up "
Last month, Pavelski's son, Nathan, turned 2, the age when the personality of a child really starts to blossom. It’s hard not being around for that.
"I’m missing a lot, I can see that just over the computer," Pavelski said. "I can see that over the computer. But hopefully things end soon and I’ll be able to see them."
Either way, he should be with his family. He said that if the NHL season gets canned entirely, his wife, Sarah, and Nathan might go to Belarus for the rest of the season. Of course, he hopes it’s the other option, that he’s back home to play a shortened NHL season.
"Obviously, Pekka and I talk about it, the NHL is where we want to be," Pavelski said. "But it’s been pretty good being able to play hockey here, and the fans here in Minsk are great. It’s a great atmosphere."
Pavelski has kept close tabs on the lockout: He said that the NHLPA has kept him well-informed and that he has even jumped on a few players’ calls from overseas.
His read on things?
"A lot of players, and I think a lot of owners, have a gut feeling that we’ll play this year," Pavelski said. "Are we really going to waste a season over the issues that separate us right now?
"To be honest, I don’t know how there isn’t a season," he added. "Maybe I’m kind of naive to say that. You see how players are speaking out, and [have] their frustrations and choice words for certain people. Every player has all those feelings. Hopefully, these negotiations keep happening and we can get a deal done."
On the ice, Pavelski is a little banged-up, but it’s not serious.
"I’ve got a lower-body injury," Pavelski chuckled, in fine NHL lingo form. "It’s just a minor one. Hopefully I’ll be back Thursday and, if not Thursday, then within a game or two of that."
"I wish Evander the best," Pavelski said. "It just didn’t work out for him. He’s a good player. He just never felt comfortable here."
Adjusting to KHL hockey, especially for a North American player, is not easy, but Pavelski makes no excuses for having one assist in seven games with Dinamo Minsk.
"It’s disappointing, and I’ve had more chances than what I’m showing [statswise], and next thing you know, you get a little banged-up," he said. "It’s a pretty slow start. There’s an adjustment, for sure. I’ll be excited to get back to play some games."