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|3 декабря 2009
Afinogenov turns into big score: Pro-tryout signee becomes a clutch late-game player. // The Atlanta Journal - Constitution.
When Slava Kozlov left Buffalo, he had some parting words for Max Afinogenov.
Move along too, he told his young Russian countryman.
That was more than seven years ago. Kozlov, after one season in Buffalo, asked for a trade and was dealt to the Thrashers for the 2002-03 season. It took awhile, but finally they are teammates again.
"I've know Max for a long time," Kozlov said. "He had a tough time last year in Buffalo. It's a good thing that he is with this team now. I gave him advice when I left Buffalo that he shouldn't stay there."
Afinogenov was unsigned by Buffalo after last season, after he appeared in just 48 games, mostly due to injuries. After nine seasons with the Sabres, the Thrashers only invited him to training camp on a pro tryout basis. He made the roster and signed a one-year, $800,000 contract in what appeared to be a minor transaction.
But in short time, Afinogenov has proven to be one of the biggest bargains in the NHL. His late-game heroics have become commonplace this season. He has 11 goals, eight of them coming in the third period. Four of his goals have come with less than a minute to play and a fifth with 1:31 remaining.
"I'm getting a chance to play here," said Afinogenov, who just four years ago led the Sabres in scoring. "In Buffalo I was pretty much just sitting on the bench. Here, I'm getting an opportunity and I'm enjoying it."
Afinogenov's late-game highlights have come in every shape and form:
Scored with 5.5 seconds left Monday to give the Thrashers a 4-3 win over Florida.
Assisted on Rich Peverley's game-winning goal in Saturday's 1-0 win over Philadelphia.
Scored the game-tying goal in the third period Friday against Carolina, after which the Thrashers went on to win 6-4.
Assisted on Nik Antropov's goal, the game-winner, in the 2-0 victory over Detroit last Wednesday.
Pulled the Thrashers to within a goal when he scored with 17 seconds left in 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 21.
Scored with 42 seconds left to force overtime against Boston on Nov. 19, a game the Thrashers lost 4-3 in a shootout.
Scored with 22 seconds left in the second period to tie the score on Nov. 15 against Edmonton, a game the Thrashers won 3-2 on Kozlov's third-period goal.
Clinched a 5-3 victory at the New York Rangers on Nov. 12 with an empty-net goal with 13 second left.
Scored with 1:31 remaining to clinch a 3-1 win over Ottawa on Oct. 31.
Clinched a 4-2 win at Buffalo on Oct. 17 --- a game in which he was booed in his return --- with a highlight-reel goal.
"For Max, this is a perfect team," Kozlov said. "He has great speed and we use him the right way and that's why he's produced lots of goals. ... The good thing for Max is he is here with the right people."
Coach John Anderson said Afinogenov has been given a "new lease on life." If the Thrashers are going to retain him beyond this season, Afinogenov won't be earning his roster spot on another tryout.
"You never know what can happen," Afinogenov said. "I'm not thinking about that. I'm just here playing my game. ... I really appreciate the chance and I've just tried to do my best."