декабря 2000 года.
Maxim progressing with words and hockey
By BUCKY GLEASON News Sports Reporter
Maxim Afinogenov is trying. He has made significant progress in the
last 16 months since coming to North America, but the words are still too
new, too confusing, too many for him to fully grasp. For now, he's making
The Buffalo Sabres, who play the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight in HSBC
Arena (7:30, Empire, 107.7 FM), can see the improvement almost daily. Afinogenov
understands more than he can speak. He knows curse words, confirmed by
his head snapping to attention and that broad Russian smile creasing his
But he's still a year away, maybe more, from mastering the post-game
interview. He was stuck on the word "frustrated" last weekend after the
Sabres' 5-2 win over San Jose in a game in which he scored the winner.
"Frustrated?" the puzzled Afinogenov said, pointing to his head. Yes,
were you frustrated, you know, mad, about not scoring for the previous
The right winger might not have immediately understood "frustrated,"
but he quickly captured the concept, as defined by a player with his skill,
when he heard the two key words that followed: Not scoring.
Oh, OK. Frustrated.
"Yes," Afinogenov said. "I didn't score in many games. I've had many
shots, many chances to score, but the puck no go into to the net. Now,
The Sabres aren't worried. Afinogenov's language skills will be developed
as he develops as a player. He picks his words carefully, contradictory
to his out-of-control style on the ice. Like many others before him, from
Gilbert Perreault to Alexander Mogilny to Dominik Hasek, his performance
will force him through the communication barriers.
His play has done the talking lately, which is why you haven't heard
much from him over the last three weeks. He had 46 shots on goal, far more
than any other Sabre, but did not score during the 15-game drought. He
had just four assists over that span.
"It's about ... time," winger Erik Rasmussen joked after Afinogenov
Huh? It's about time you scored.
Oh, OK. Scored.
Afinogenov has much to learn, but he has undeniable natural talent.
He was Buffalo's best player through the first 20 games this season on
his gifts alone, but teams have been buckling down when he enters the zone.
He has six goals and 18 points in 33 games. He had 16 goals and 34 points
in 65 games last year, his rookie season.
He will improve when he better grasps the style played in the NHL,
so one day he will called upon to explain those opportunities. People will
want to know more about how he scored, what he saw, what he was thinking
while making those dynamic moves down the ice.
For now, to use a cousin of the oldest cliche in professional sports,
he's taking one word at a time. Over the Christmas break, he learned "frustrated"
by way of "mad" and "not scoring."
"Sometimes, if we lose, sure I'm mad," he said. "If I score probably
a couple goals, and I have chances, the team will win. If I don't score
a couple times, and I've had good chances, and the team lose, I'm not happy
Give him credit. He's getting there.
The Sabres celebrated Christmas with two days off as mandated by the
Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL Players Association. Neither
the Sabres nor the Penguins will have a full practice before the game tonight.
Two popular Penguins - Mario Lemieux and Matthew Barnaby - will not
be in the lineup. Lemieux will become the first owner to play in the NHL
when he officially unretires and suits up Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Barnaby
is suspended for four games after an altercation with a fan in Florida
The Sabres caught a break when Lemieux decided to wait one more day.
Super Mario had been practicing with his team, but he was not expected
to make the trip into Buffalo this morning. Instead, he wanted to have
one more workout on his own and avoid one more day of hoopla caused by
"Thanks for waiting an extra day," center Stu Barnes said of Lemieux.
"As a fan, and a lot of us are even though we're still players, I'm really
excited. It's great for hockey. I was lucky enough to play with him. It
was a thrill to play with him. It's a thrill to watch him. As a player,
I'm not so excited."