Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички

Rambler's Top100

1 декабря 2000 года.
Kasparaitis hitting on all cylinders // Tribune-Review
By Joe Starkey

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Penguins defenseman Darius Kasparaitis
had a career-changing epiphany last summer. 

Thanks to some insight from long-time Russian coach Vladimir
Jurzinov, Kasparaitis realized that he'd played his first seven
NHL seasons without one crucial ingredient. 

The puck. 

"You have to have the puck to be seen in this game," Kasparaitis
recalls Jurzinov telling him. "If you don't have the puck, no one's
going to realize you're even playing." 

Now, it would be silly to say that Kasparaitis went unnoticed all those years. On the contrary, his shoulder-length hair and bone-ratting hits made him one of hockey's most recognizable characters. 

But his moments in the spotlight were brief. He'd grab everyone's attention with a viscous check then fade into the background. 

This season, that has changed. 

Kasparaitis, 28, keeps people watching not only with his hitting but also with his aggressive puck-carrying. It's not that he is piling up points. He has five in 23 games. But he is effectively jumping into the rush like never before. 

Combine that with his 103 hits - second in the league to Anaheim's Vitaly Vishnevski as of Thursday - and you've got a man who is, by many accounts, playing the best hockey of his career. 

"This is the best I remember him playing," said Penguins general manager Craig Patrick. 

"He's been our best defenseman so far, night in and night out," said assistant coach Randy Hillier, who runs the defense. "He logs a lot of minutes (nearly 20 per game), he plays physical, and he's done some things offensively with puck movement and coming late on plays and making some plays low in the offensive zone." 

Right winger Alexei Kovalev remembers when Kasparaitis played like this all the time. The two were teammates in the Russian junior leagues. 

"He was more like a Brian Leetch," Kovalev said. "He could stickhandle and use his speed and open room for you, and that's the way he's playing now. He's been playing unbelievable for us." 

Kasparaitis isn't about to change his name to Darius Orr, though. He knows that his meal ticket is eating opposing forwards alive - and he isn't missing many meals. He sent Boston's Mike Knuble flying through an open door into the Penguins bench Tuesday. He had three big hits on one shift against Carolina three games before that. He nearly broke Flyers' winger Paul Ranheim in-half over the boards at the Penguins bench Nov. 8. 

Kasparaitis leads the league in hits per game (4.5). Even his teammates aren't safe. Right winger Aleksey Morozov collapsed like a folding chair during practice Thursday when Kasparaitis clocked him. 

"It was a good hit - good for me," Morozov said. 

It sure didn't look that way, but nobody's going to put the brakes on Kasparaitis now. The Penguins' new coaching staff has given him the green light to roam the ice for prey. 

"The guy can hit, and you have to let hitters hit," Hillier said. "A guy like that is almost like a goal scorer scoring or a fighter getting into a fight and turning the momentum. We want to encourage him to play his game, but not chase it. Sometimes, if he gets overly aggressive, he gets in trouble. There will be ample opportunity over the course of a game for him to be effective in that area." 

Kasparaitis came to training camp in the best shape of his career, thanks to a low-carb diet and a heavy workout schedule. He spent part of the summer, as always, working out with Russian players
such as Ottawa's Alexei Yashin. Jurzinov, who coached Kasparaitis with the Moscow Dynamo and was an assistant to Viktor Tikhonov with some the powerful Soviet Union teams of the past, tutors
the players. 

The result is a quicker, meaner, leaner Kasparaitis. One that appears to be fully recovered from two reconstructive knee surgeries. He credits the coaching staff with his newfound confidence. He didn't feel as supported in the past, particularly under Kevin Constantine. 

Of course, Kasparaitis wasn't in as good a shape under Constantine, either. 

"I have to be myself," Kasparaitis said. "With Kevin and all those guys, they used to play with my head a lot. They used to tell me, 'Don't do this thing and don't do that thing,' and that affected my game a lot. 

"I'm kind of an emotional guy. Whatever I think is right for the team at this moment, I have to do it."  

The difference now is that the play doesn't end with the collision. Kasparaitis wants something besides the thrill of the kill. 

He wants the puck. 

"That's one thing I'm doing different: I always try to fight for the puck and get it from the forward after a hit," he said. 

The next step, if you ask Kovalev, is to get Kasparaitis to shoot more. 

Kovalev said it looks as if Kasparaitis is terminally torn between passing and shooting and that when he finally decides to shoot "it takes five seconds to get to the net." 

So Kovalev is encouraging Kasparaitis to shoot more. Don't miss the irony here. Three years ago, Kovalev wouldn't shoot under the threat of deportation. Now he's a regular shot doctor. 

"I'm telling him, 'You have one decision to make before you play a hockey game: As soon as you get the puck in front or even at the hash mark or the blue line, take a shot. You have a great shot. Use it,'|" Kovalev said. "It doesn't matter who's yelling behind you. If you're in shooting position, shoot it. That's the way I learned by playing in the NHL. That's the way he should play." 

Kasparaitis doesn't think his shot is so great. 

"That's my problem," he said. "I can slap shot, but I cannot wrist shot. I have to work on that. It's not an easy thing to do." 

Then he laughed and said, "If I knew how to do it, I'd be a perfect player." 

Страничка Дариуса Каспарайтиса на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


29 июля. «Рэйнджерс» отказались от идеи выкупа контракта Дариуса Каспарайтиса. 

4 декабря. Дариус Каспарайтис: "Мой любимый прием - "мельница" // "Советский Спорт"

23 октября. Хабибулин и Каспарайтис - в "Ак Барсе" - "Спорт-Экспресс"

20 августа. Дариус Каспарайтис: "Кубок Мира выиграет самая дружная команда" - Спорт-Экспресс.

24 декабря. Kaspar Puts On Big Hit - Newsday

4 декабря. Kasparaitis a Jolly Ranger - Newsday

20 августа. Каспарайтису прооперировано правое колено.

11 августа. Каспарайтис - Король силовых приемов - Советский Спорт

20 февраля. Дарюс забыл обиду

19 февраля. Sather Down on Darius


"ЗВЁЗДЫ С ВОСТОКА" @ c 1997 года