Karina Smirnoff has been paired with everyone from J.R. Martinez to Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino during her reign on "Dancing With the Stars." But for Season 18 of the celebrity ballroom competition, she may have met her match with her latest partner, former NHL star Sean Avery.
On last week's premiere, the new couple scored 20 points for their contemporary dance, but some fans are wondering what's up with the hockey pro's seemingly icy demeanor.
[Related: Catch Up on 'DWTS' With Our Weekly Recaps]
We caught up with Karina to get the real scoop on Sean as well as the duo's Week 2 salsa and that dreaded partner switch-up.
The Switch-Up Situation
In a first-ever "DWTS" twist, the couples will be forced to switch partners at some point this season. But don't ask Karina whom she's eyeing as her new partner.
"I don't, frankly, even understand the whole idea of the switch-up because to me that's the essence of the show," she said. "You work so hard developing a relationship and chemistry with your partner that works great for rehearsals and works right on camera. You need time to click and know how to work with one another. I don't particularly understand the switch-up yet. When you're in this competition you kind of go wholeheartedly with the partner that you've been paired up with so you don't look around, 'Oh I like that guy' or 'I like how that guy dances.'"
While she'll wait on the fans to vote and pair the celebs up, she added, "To me it's almost like cheating for a week."
'He Is Very Funny'
While Sean Avery was known for his agitative playing style back in his NHL days, he's playing nice on "Dancing With the Stars," according to his proud partner. And he's not as icy as he seems.
"I love my partner," Karina told Yahoo TV. "He is serious to a degree, but he has a very dry sense of humor. In the beginning I was like 'Is he joking, is he not joking?' I wasn't really sure how to take him. But once I got to know him — I mean it took me about 30 days — he is very funny. He's very funny.
"He's got a very unique delivery," she added. "The very first time I saw him, he walked into the room, you know the first meeting of the show, he goes, 'Well, I requested you. I wanted you, and here you are.' Without even a glimpse of a smile. I'm like, 'Is that a good thing or is that a bad thing? Am I supposed to be excited about this or scared?'"
The longtime "DWTS" pro acknowledged that her new partner isn't as outwardly perky as she is, but she thinks that's what makes them such a perfect match.
"He's quiet," she said. "He's definitely not as bubbly as I am, but I think that's what makes us work. We complete each other in things. Like he'll be serious and I'll be horsing around, and I'll get an occasional laugh, smile … The more time we spend together, I think we're a great match."
The Season 13 mirror ball trophy winner also praised Sean for his determination, his relentless desire to be the best, and his dedication to the show. His commitment to practicing — yes, he goes home and actually practices those moves — is also impressive. Karina points to a recent Instagram video of him dancing in his bathrobe and praises her partner for diving into the process and embracing it. Indeed, on last week's live show, he remarked that he watched "Footloose" more than a hundred times to prepare for the competition.
Spandex and Shirtless
Although spandex is the hockey pro's preferred rehearsal garb, he has apparently joked to Karina about future outfits for the show. "When Sean says 'I wanna wear a onesie,' I don't actually take him seriously," she told Yahoo TV. "It's a joke … I remember when we were getting our costumes ready for Week 1, they were like 'So what type of onesie were you thinking of?' and I'm like 'That was a joke.'" While we probably won't see Sean in a sequined onesie, Karina predicts we'll see her partner sans shirt for an upcoming dance: "I think we'll get his shirt off," she dished. "He has taken his shirt off while he was changing a couple of times. He's got an incredible body, so I feel like we should show him shirtless on TV."
Salsa Stories and a Sneak Peek
For Week 2, Karina and Sean will debut their salsa, a dance style the hockey pro chose as the one he'd most like to learn. The duo even hit a spicy hot salsa club to prepare for their performance.
"I got to dance with the guys who are at the club as well. The regulars," Karina dished. "Sean got to watch that, and I kind of pulled him on the dance floor. He was doing amazing. I'm excited for our salsa." The dancer also gave us a preview of what's to come. Guest judges will be a regular theme this season, and Karina's guest judge wish list includes Pink, Jason Derulo, and Paula Abdul. "All of those guys would be incredible," she said.
After this week's celeb-chosen dances, it's on to the most memorable year of the celebrity's life. "Week 3 will be talking about the year that was the most influential for them and the song that projects that," she said. "And Week 4, from what I know, is when the switch-up happens."
Be sure to check out Karina Smirnoff and Sean Avery on "Dancing With the Stars," Monday, March 24 at 8 p.m. on ABC.