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декабря 2001 года.
Talent of Afinogenov blossoms // Buffalo News
By MELISSA GESCHWIND
Maxim Afinogenov is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in a tucked-in sweater.
What gift did his parents send him for Christmas? "It's a secret."
Why does he wear the unusual No. 61? "It's my secret. I never tell why. Nobody."
How has he become one of the Buffalo Sabres' top goal scorers, after two seasons of shooting right into every goaltender's midsection?
"I feel pretty much the same," Afinogenov said, shrugging. "I don't know. I feel the same."
The explosive right winger sure doesn't look the same, though. He is one game removed from a four-game goal-scoring run, and is currently riding a career-best six-game points streak (5 goals, 4 assists) that he will try to extend Wednesday against the Montreal Canadiens at HSBC Arena.
Afinogenov's play through last week was impressive enough to command attention from Team Russia General Manager/coach Slava Fetisov, who on Friday made him the second-youngest member of Russia's 2002 Olympic roster.
"I think it's something he earned," Sabres GM Darcy Regier said. Barring a possible breakout performance in Salt Lake City, Afinogenov likely will be no more than a role player for the Russians. But the 22-year-old has established himself as a key member of Buffalo's offense, and the production of his line - including winger Slava Kozlov and center Tim Connolly - has been one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal December.
"He can single-handedly create the opportunities, and a lot of time last year those didn't lead to goals - and even earlier this year, (he would get) three, four opportunities a game that he wasn't scoring," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think a little bit of it is confidence now and a little bit is that line is just feeding off each other and has really found some good chemistry."
No doubt that playing with veteran offensive threat Kozlov and gifted playmaker Connolly has helped plenty. But Afinogenov's future lies in his own hands, which finally seem to have found their touch around the net.
As a result, Afinogenov is having the best year of his young NHL career. With 13 goals and 21 points in 37 games, he is on pace to score 29 goals and 47 points this season, easily eclipsing his previous highs of 16 goals in 1999-2000 and 36 points in 2000-01.
The coaching staff has encouraged Afinogenov to shoot lower and harder, instead of always looking for the prettiest shot. They also urge him to make more frequent use of his teammates, an area in which Afinogenov has made great strides.
"The coaches show me some video clips from my games and they help me
with my game a little bit, like what's better to do in different situations.
I think it's helped a little bit," he said. "They tell me to shoot when
I've got a good position for a shot, but if I don't have a good position
just make a play, that's all."
Afinogenov often was relegated to the fourth line during the stretch run, and he was a healthy scratch six times last spring, including the first two games of the playoffs.
"I think there was always questions about defensive liability, tough to have on the ice in key situations," Ruff said. "I think Max is starting to learn that the reward for playing away from the puck is more ice time and more opportunities to produce, and I think we're starting to see that."
Afinogenov's game is built on speed and finesse, both of which he has in gaudy abundance. On the flip side of his obvious natural talent, though, came an initial resistance to the Sabres' dump-and-chase, defensive minded style. Although his minus-nine rating does not reflect it, Afinogenov is learning to hustle back on defense with nearly the same gusto he shows on offensive breakaways.
"He's a much better player (then he was the last two seasons) and that's very important, because if one guy doesn't play the system it's tough for other guys to play with him or to adjust," said Miroslav Satan, Buffalo's resident scoring star. "When he came he had a hard time with that, and right now he knows what he's supposed to do out there, what's expected from his teammates. He is adding his talent and his skills to that, and that's a pretty good package."
If he keeps it up, Afinogenov will soon join Satan among the league's top snipers. If the summertime exit of goalie Dominik Hasek and forwards Doug Gilmour and Donald Audette left the Sabres lacking in star power, Afinogenov's youth and enthralling style of play make him the most likely candidate to fill the blank spot next to Satan's name on the marquee.
"I think he's one exciting player," said Ruff. "All we want to do is continue to have him improve."
Afinogenov's view of his future? You guessed it - it's a secret. He said he has no set number of goals he hopes to score, but he does admit to knowing exactly what he wants.
"I," Afinogenov said, "want a lot."
Страничка Максима Афиногенова
на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
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хоккей" // "Спорт-Экспресс"
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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"