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20 марта 2007 года
Fedorov says helping out on blue line OK for now // The Columbus Dispatch

By Michael Arace

The Blue Jackets are using the tail end of another lost season to evaluate their younger talent. To facilitate this process, they have taken a future Hall-of-Fame center and moved him to the blue line. Depending on one's viewpoint, it's like moving Ernie Banks to third base -- or to right field.

Sergei Fedorov, the Blue Jacket in question, was asked about the situation after practice yesterday. He handled the query with tact and magnanimity.

"I think we need the help down there," Fedorov said. "A lot of guys got injured, for whatever reason that is. I prefer playing center, but the team needs somebody on the blue line who can dump the puck, move the puck, make plays out of there. It's still the game of hockey. I'm on the ice more often, and that feels great."

The Blue Jackets have 10 games in 19 days remaining on their schedule. Defensemen Bryan Berard (back) and Duvie Westcott (concussion) will not return. Defensemen Adam Foote (ankle) and Rostislav Klesla (hip) may or may not reappear by the time owner John H. McConnell makes his annual apology to season ticket-holders.

"We're in a tough spot," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've lost every game played without three veteran defensemen. You can't continually throw kids back there -- it's not healthy for some of their careers to go back there and get exposed. (Fedorov) is a player that has gone back there and given us a chance to win every night."

Fedorov was thrown into the blue-line breach in the middle of a game in Nashville 10 days ago. He has, in three games since, averaged 24 minutes, 20 seconds of ice time. He has played in the top pair, with Ron Hainsey, and will be similarly deployed when the Blue Jackets meet the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in Nationwide Arena.

"He beats guys one-on-one, but we knew that," Hainsey said. "He has a confidence to beat guys at top speed. And he has a real ability to wheel around the net and get the puck out. He's pretty impressive for a guy who has barely played the position."

Fedorov played the position before, in Detroit, under Scotty Bowman, in another era. He neither relished nor whined about the duty. The difference now is that posterity has entered into consideration. Fedorov has 460 goals and 642 points in 1,118 games. He's 37 years and has one year remaining, after this, on his contract, and he still sees himself as a forward.

Asked about the possibility of playing as a defenseman next season, Fedorov said, "I hope I'm not on the blue line next year. I hope I play center. I'd like to still score a few goals before the end of my career."

Fedorov is a proud man with a sterling resume -- three Stanley Cup rings, a Hart Trophy and two Selkes. He has for months been playing with a tender elbow. One gets the feeling that he'd like to get himself right and make at least one more go-around at center, on a scoring line.

Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock, at the moment, is only looking at a smaller picture.

"Long term, for us, is until the end of the season," Hitchcock said. "So it's 10 games, and then we'll evaluate it from there. But (Fedorov) has looked good. He's helping us -- he's really helping us. He gets us out of trouble. He does things with the puck that very few people can do. He makes calm plays under pressure. He competes like heck back there. We'll evaluate through the summer. But he has looked very good for us."

Hitchcock conceded an irony: Playing Fedorov on the blue line fills one hole and creates another.

"I think that's obvious," Hitchcock said. "But this has given us a chance to increase the responsibilities of (centers Alexander) Svitov and (Geoff) Platt, and we'll see where that takes us."

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