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|16 сентября 2006
Awaiting Affy's Ascension // St.Peterburgh Times
Dmitry Afanasenkov, a third-liner for two seasons, gets a shot to play with stars Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
BRANDON - Dmitry Afanasenkov swears he is not nervous, isn't feeling pressure or losing any sleep.
Yes, the Lightning left wing said, he faces the biggest opportunity of his NHL career. But that is no reason to worry.
"If you feel pressure, it's not going to help," Afanasenkov said. "All you can do is play hard and do your best. After that, it's not my decision what they do with me. I just need to think about my game and nothing else."
What Tampa Bay is doing is giving Afanasenkov a chance to play on its top line with center Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis.
They go for their first test run today, when intrasquad scrimmages begin at the Ice Sports Forum.
It is a huge promotion for Afanasenkov, 26, who has been a third-line player for most of his two full seasons with the Lightning.
But after Fredrik Modin was traded to the Blue Jackets for goaltender Marc Denis, Afanasenkov got the nod.
"It's a big year for Affy," coach John Tortorella said. "He knows it. It's not going to be given to him."
But it's his job to lose.
The question is, can he handle it? Modin scored 31 goals last season. Afanasenkov scored a career-high nine and admitted Friday, "It's about time for me to score more goals"
The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Russian native has speed, a good shot and can handle the puck in traffic. The problem has been an inability to finish. At times, he played as if the post had a bull's-eye.
But Afanasenkov scored seven goals last season in his final 24 games, and he was with Richards and St. Louis in the playoffs when Modin struggled. He did well enough that Richards and St. Louis spoke up on his behalf in their exit meetings.
"He's got good speed. He's got good hands. He can shoot the puck," St. Louis said. "This is his chance."
"At the end of last season, I think I improved," Afanasenkov said; "just going to the net and being more hungry about it.
"If you play hard and win more pucks, everything will come. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. I know I can do it."
Scoring will be the last piece of the puzzle for Afanasenkov, who is an energetic defender and stubborn along the boards.
There will be a challenge playing with Richards and St. Louis, who have been paired for several years and know each other's games like their own.
"If anything, Affy is going to have to adjust to what me and Richie do," St. Louis said. "But it's not like Affy comes from somewhere else. We know his game. We know what kind of player he is."
Said Tortorella: "It's just a matter of Affy understanding, 'I have a great chance here,' but not to blow up and be tense about it."
Sounds like Afanasenkov already has that covered.
Страничка Дмитрия Афанасенкова
на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
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Данные подготовлены Дмитрием Поповым.