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Rambler's Top100

28 2006 . 
Fedotenko heeds the advice // "- " 

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA

The Lightning's Ruslan Fedotenko scores on one of his seven shots Thursday against Carolina. "Everybody was telling me to shoot more often. My wife tells me, everybody, my kids ? strangers in the street," he says.

For as long as he can remember, Ruslan Fedotenko has heard the same suggestion over and over.

Shoot more.

When I was in juniors, when I was in Philly, everybody was telling me to shoot more often, the Lightning wing said. My wife tells me, everybody, my kids strangers in the street.

Its not a hollow suggestion. Lightning coach John Tortorella calls Fedotenkos wrist shot one of the best in the league. Hes not suddenly trigger-happy, but Fedotenko is taking more opportunities.

In the Lightnings 5-1 victory over the Hurricanes on Thursday night the first of two games against Carolina in three days with the second tonight at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C. Fedotenko took seven shots. He scored the games first goal and assisted on Vinny Lecavaliers insurance score in the third period.

It has been an impressive start for Fedotenko. He is tied with Lecavalier and Brad Richards for the team points lead with eight through nine games. He has never scored more than 26 goals in a season (that came last season), but he has four in the first nine games.

I just feel a little more comfortable, Fedotenko said. My confidence is pretty good. Im playing well. I feel healthy pretty much. We started winning, so life is good right now.

Feeling healthy is a big part of his success. Hes had surgeries on his hip and labrums the past two offseasons. He spent four weeks on crutches after hip surgery this summer and worked lightly during training camp.

The toughest thing was trying to hold yourself back and try not to push too hard so you ended up hurting yourself, he said. Especially with athletes, we like being active. You work hard in the summer, and you get stronger for the next season.

That didnt slow him down once the season started.

If youre healthy youre feeling good, he said. Youre skating better. You have good speed. I feel pretty good. But given the circumstances, with the surgery, Im pretty happy to be at this point. My goal was to start the regular season strong.
Tortorella has taken notice, not only of Fedotenkos scoring success, but also the way he has played away from the puck. On Thursday, Fedotenko was one of six Tampa Bay players with two blocked shots. He also had two hits and two takeaways.

I think Feds has been one of our stronger guys on the puck as far as protecting it in our end zone, not giving it back to the other team, Tortorella said. Hes had a couple hits that have caused turnovers. Hes been very good.

On Fedotenkos goal Thursday, which came at the 7:02 mark in the first, he retriggered as he came across the right circle, shooting a wrister instead of a slap shot to beat Carolina goaltender Cam Ward and break a scoreless tie.

That was key for us, playing with the lead, Tortorella said. We havent played with the lead very often. Carolina was playing back-to-back games. You get a lead and it begins to be a little bit of an uphill climb for them.

Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at eencina@sptimes.com. 

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