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Two-way street suits Max; Afinogenov's season has had ups, downs // Buffalo News.
Maxim Afinogenov has always been sneaky. He has the ability to show one move and deftly go to another.
Last week, however, he had to be completely upfront about his intentions. Otherwise, the U.S. government wouldn't have been happy.
Afinogenov, who's been in Buffalo since 1999, became an American after following the usual road to dual citizenship. He took history tests. He proved he could read and write. He passed the interview process.
"They need to know you're not a spy," Afinogenov said with a smile Monday.
It's good to know the Russian winger isn't a mole away from the rink. Thankfully for the Sabres, he has rediscovered ways to infiltrate enemy defenses on it. He's third on the team with seven assists, and his eight points are tied for sixth.
He was arguably the Sabres' best player Friday against Atlanta. He had five shots, three great chances and scored his first goal in a 5-4 overtime loss.
"It was a relief, but it was not enough to win," he said. "Maybe I need to score one more to win."
Unfortunately for the Sabres, Afinogenov is still a bit of a double agent. On Saturday against Boston, he basically gave back the goal (and another). The Bruins parlayed his ill-advised turnover into a goal to take a 3-1 lead, and he finished minus-2.
His streakiness fits with a team that's on a two-game winless skid following a two-game winning streak, and in a town where people leave work on Friday in T-shirts and return Monday in wool caps.
"Hot and cold," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said in describing Afinogenov's season. "I didn't like the play he made. That cost us dearly, a blind pass in the neutral zone. The game before I thought he was real good."
At least there's been good. After a nightmarish season last year, Afinogenov needed to show there were still bright spots in his game.
"He still sometimes falls back in his old game, but I think he's improved from last year a lot," alternate captain Jochen Hecht said. "You won't get that out of him totally, but he picks his spots now where tries to make a move and go around someone, and he makes plays other times."
Afinogenov has bounced from line to line this season, and that continued Monday. He was skating at right wing with center Clarke MacArthur and left wing Daniel Paille. Most recently, his line featured MacArthur on the left and Adam Mair in the middle.
"That line was a line that we talked about this morning," Ruff said. "We gave up way too many chances. We gave up goals, and we gave up chances."
With two extra forwards and another day of practice ahead, it remains to be seen whether the new line will skate against St. Louis on Wednesday in HSBC Arena. Afinogenov hopes so. After a dalliance at left wing earlier this season, the 29-year-old is back on his more comfortable right side.
And, after an injury-plagued season to forget, he feels he's on the right track.
"I feel much more better than last year, and finally I'm playing on the right side, too," Afinogenov said. "I can create more, and I think I'm more effective on the right side.
"It's just one month into the season, and we're finding our game. Hopefully, we'll be more consistent. We'll start that in the practice and just take it into the game and play right."