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Afinogenov in a slump? No big deal. //www.buffalonews.com
By BOB DICESARE News Sports Reporter
Maxim Afinogenov is mired in a goal-scoring slump. His first goal of the season came in Buffalo's opening win over Chicago. His last goal of the season came in Buffalo's opening win over Chicago. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is so concerned he doesn't plan to do anything about it.
Afinogenov will be on his regular line with Doug Gilmour and Chris Gratton tonight when the Sabres, fresh off a five-day layoff, meet the Montreal Canadiens at 7 tonight at HSBC Arena (Empire, Radio 107.7).
The Sabres have won three straight and are unbeaten in their last four. Their 4-0-1 HSBC record represents their best home start since the 1989-90 team began 13-0-1. They've been getting balanced production out of their four lines, including the combination of Afinogenov, Gratton and Gilmour. To make changes at this point would be to tamper with success.
"Afinogenov has had a lot of chances that he hasn't taken advantage of, but in his place Gratton's starting to score and Gilmour's been making a lot of nice plays," Ruff said. "The three of them have meshed well."
"It's been no good luck for me," Afinogenov said. "I'll just keep on working."
The beauty of Afinogenov's game is he can have an impact without scoring goals. He wowed the National Hockey League with his speed last season while scoring 16 goals as a rookie. He has 26 shots this season, tied for second on the team behind Stu Barnes' 27.
"No question everybody has to respect his speed," Gratton said. "His speed isn't a secret anymore. Maybe last year he caught a lot of guys off guard because he was new in the league and now you have defensemen who are watching him and playing his speed. He's got to find little ways to get around that, but he's been playing really well for us."
Because team's are forced to honor Afinogenov's quick-strike ability and creativity, more room opens up for Gilmour and Gratton, particularly when the Sabres are on the power play.
"You got to look at his overall game," Ruff said. "He's been very good on the puck-pushing side of it and has created a lot on his own to set up the guys on his line that haven't gone in. He's been on the unit that usually comes first on the power play, and the power play has been very successful. And when he is out there on that unit he's made a lot of nice plays where the puck hasn't gone in the net but (the chance) was the result of one of his passes."
"We've had lots of chances, and that's the good side," Gratton said. "When you're not getting chances then it's time to worry and time to change things."
Changing the lines is not in Ruff's immediate plans. Barnes and J.P. Dumont lead the team with four goals apiece. Four other players - Dave Andreychuk, Miroslav Satan, Gratton and Erik Rasmussen - have three apiece. The contributions are coming from everywhere.
"Slowly we've had different players rise to the occasions," Ruff said. "I think we got some players who have made strides who have been the difference in some hockey games. It isn't the same player and it isn't a Gilmour or Andreychuk. On different nights it's Dumont, Rasmussen, those types of players. And that makes us even more dangerous."
Страничка Максима Афиногенова
на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
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23 сентября. Максим Афиногенов: "Почувствовал российский хоккей" // "Спорт-Экспресс"
13 марта. Максим Афиногенов: "Обмена пока не требую" - Спорт-Экспресс
5 января. Максим Афиногенов:"Теперь есть повод позвать земляков в ресторан" - "Спорт-Экспресс"