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января 2009 года.
Babchuk on the rise: Canes defenseman has three goals in the past six games // www.newsobserver.com
Jan. 10--BOSTON -- Anton Babchuk appears to be the kind of player, the kind of person, who quietly goes about his business.
The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman isn't a flashy, emotional type. He doesn't have the big, booming voice that carries all over the locker room.
What Babchuk does have is a big, booming shot. He's being heard from more and more on the ice, competing, contributing, making the plays, making the most of an increased opportunity to play.
"The more ice time I get, consistently, the more confidence I have," Babchuk said. "It's that simple, really."
Babchuk's goal in the Canes' 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday was his third in the last six games. On Tuesday, he set up Tuomo Ruutu with what would the winning goal in the Canes' 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils. He has five points in his last six games and been solid in the defensive zone.
Emotion? Did you see his reaction when he scored against the Boston Bruins at the RBC Center two days after Christmas? Did you see his low-riding fist pump when he scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues?
"I don't score 50 goals a season," Babchuk said, breaking into a smile. "So every goal for me is emotional. I get excited."
More so, Canes coach Paul Maurice and assistant coach Tom Rowe, who works with the defensemen, are excited about Babchuk's play of late. Maurice is happy to see Babchuk "come out of his shell" a little, improve and show that confidence and attention to detail on the ice.
"He's been more decisive on what to do," Rowe said. "Whether it's a two-on-one, whether it's an opportunity to shoot the puck, he's not hesitating. I think whenever a player is in that in-between mind-set, it really has a negative effect on his play.
"The whole coaching staff has talked to him about doing things quicker. Going back for the puck quicker. I think that's been the biggest difference. Everyone figured he had the talent and he definitely has the shot, but it was just getting him in situations where he could succeed."
No one questions Babcuk's shot. It's a blur from the blue line and appears to be a health hazard from any point on the ice.
Last Saturday, one of Babchuk's bombs was deflected and hit the Lightning's Andrej Meszaros in the face. Meszaros needed 64 stitches to close up all the wounds.
Asked who has the biggest shot, Babchuk or defenseman Joe Corvo, Maurice grinned.
"Joe's, I think, is faster and I would think Bab's may be harder," Maurice said. "I don't care who you are, nobody wants to block those shots."
Maurice said he first saw Babchuk in the 2004-2005 season, the NHL lockout year, in a few minor-league games in Norfolk, Va. He said he liked Babchuk's size -- he's 6 feet 5 and 204 pounds -- and his game. But he was in for a surprise when he took over as the Hurricanes coach on Dec. 3 and was going over the personnel with general manager Jim Rutherford.
"Jim says, 'You've got a good, young defenseman in Babchuk, but he just needs time to mature,' " Maurice said. "I said he wasn't that young, that he had to be 28 or 29. But he's just 24.
"I'm hopeful for him because I think he really wants it, that he's really interested in becoming a better player."
A first-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2002, Babchuk was traded to Carolina in January 2006. Things soured a bit in February 2007 when the Canes briefly suspended him for refusing to report to the Albany River Rats, their minor league affiliate in the American Hockey League, and Babchuk left to play in Russia last season.
But Babchuk wanted back in the NHL. He wanted back on the Hurricanes, and signed a one-year, $1 million contract in July.
Babchuk sat out five of the first seven games. He missed four December games with an elbow injury, but he's gotten more ice time since his return Dec. 20.
A native of Kiev, Ukraine, Babchuk said he enjoys living in Raleigh, that it doesn't have the snarling traffic or the smog of, say, Kiev or Moscow.
"It's really nice to have the fresh air," he said.
But what Babchuk really is enjoying is getting his chance, of being able to take a deep breath, go out on the ice and produce.
"I've always thought I could play at this level," he said. "It was all about getting the opportunity."