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|30 января 2003
Fedotenko Starting To Heat Up - Tampa Tribune
By ERIK ERLENDSSON
TAMPA - Things are looking rosy again for Ruslan Fedotenko.
The Lightning right wing has rediscovered his offensive game, and it couldn't have happened at a better time as Tampa Bay hosts division rival Carolina tonight on a 3-1-1 streak in its past five games.
Fedotenko enters tonight on a four-game scoring streak with three goals and five points. In his past five games, Fedotenko is a plus-five.
``I think Ruslan is beginning to find his game right now,'' Lightning coach John Tortorella said. ``I think he has been very inconsistent this year, but in the past three or four games you can really see him start to come on. When you watch Ruslan, he brings the puck to the net and he has a mind-set of shooting right now, and it's very important for the success of this team for him to continue to grow.''
Acquired from Philadelphia on draft day, along with a pair of second round picks, in exchange for the No. 4 pick, Fedotenko was expected to contribute right away. He was labeled as a player who could make a difference offensively for a team that scored 178 goals last season, third lowest in the league.
He paid immediate dividends with three goals and six points in the first four games of the season and looked to be a lock to reach the 20-goal plateau expected of him by management.
But he slumped to two goals over the next 18 games. Tortorella took some of Fedotenko's ice time away as he was reduced to third and fourth line even-strength duties for a small stretch.
Fedotenko's confidence started to wane.
``You lose a little confidence when you are shooting and shooting and nothing is going in,'' he said. ``Before I had chances and the goalie made the save and I get bad bounces and you get moved down, that's just the game and the business we are in.''
The coaching staff didn't lose faith in Fedotenko, however, and he has consistently played right wing alongside Vinny Lecavalier over the past month. In the past week, the two, along with Andre Roy and Vinny Prospal at times, have been part of the Lightning's most productive line, which has produced seven goals and seven assists in the past five games.
``He's been put in offensive positions all year long and I think his mind-set has changed [recently] as far as shooting the puck [and] bringing the puck to the net and being in the areas to score,'' Tortorella said. ``It's coming at a good time. His game, not just because he's scoring, but he's getting a lot more chances now, is coming around. You can see him much more involved in the offense.''
With his game back on track, Fedotenko's confidence has returned. He is using his speed to take the puck to the net, he is feeding off Lecavalier's play and he is keeping his focus on defense as well.
He notched his fifth game- winning goal of the season Tuesday in Philadelphia by being in good defensive position. As Pavel Kubina pinched in, Fedotenko moved back to the right point to cover. As the puck was moved around behind the net, Fedotenko pinched in and one-timed a Vinny Prospal pass for his 12th goal of the season.
``When a couple of goals go in, you are more relaxed, you are looking for the play and not just looking not to make mistakes,'' Fedotenko said. ``You start playing to make some stuff happen and relax and just play the game. Before, I played not to make mistakes because I could get benched or moved down to the fourth line and not play as much. That's a big difference, when you have the confidence and if you make mistakes you know that you are still going to get the chance to play.''
With his recent scoring spurt, Fedotenko has put himself back on pace to reach the 20-goal mark and he could prove to be a difference-maker as the Lightning look toward the final stretch run and a possible playoff berth.
``There are a lot of games left and I still think I can get 20 to 25 goals if we keep playing like this. All it takes is a couple of good streaks,'' he said.