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18 декабря 1999 года.
Kasparaitis unleashed in neutral zone again
By Dejan Kovacevic, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

The Penguins dumped their neutral-zone trap system when Herb Brooks took over as coach nine days ago. But they still have a nasty surprise awaiting their opponents between the blue lines.

He wears No. 11.

"That's where I like to step up, in the neutral zone," defenseman Darius Kasparaitis said. "People don't expect to get hit there."

Not in open ice. That's old-time hockey ... Toe Blake ... Eddie Shore.

"When a guy is coming out of his own end or when he's along the boards, he knows he's going to get hit. Everybody knows that," Kasparaitis said. "But if he's coming through the middle, he's not looking for it."

The Florida Panthers should know to look for it tonight at the Civic Arena. In fact, every team the Penguins face should know to look for it, given the way Kasparaitis has elevated his game since Brooks replaced Kevin Constantine behind the bench.

The Penguins are 4-0 under Brooks and, in that span, Kasparaitis has 19 hits, an average of 4.75 per game. In the 19 games before that, he was averaging 2.8.

"That tells you he's not afraid to get trapped or make a mistake anymore," defenseman Jiri Slegr said. "He's always going for the big-time hit now. That's his game. He loves it. It's what gets him excited, and that's the way he should play."

That's how Kasparaitis feels, too.

Under Constantine, he was instructed to keep his emotions in check, to follow a rigid defensive system and to be especially wary of charging through the neutral zone with a full head of steam.

He has done little to disguise his glee at being unleashed by Brooks.

"It's fun for the whole team," Kasparaitis said. "We had a different system under Kevin, but right now we play more go-go hockey. And for me, if I see a chance to step up, I don't think about getting caught out of position. I just go and hit the guy. I'm more loose right now. I see the guy, I read the play and I finish my check."

Big-time contact away from the boards is a vanishing art in the NHL. And understandably so. It's not an easy way to make a living.

If you line up an opponent and hit him even slightly off target, you could get the worst of it. If you line up an opponent and miss completely, you're skating in the wrong direction while the other team bolts toward your net on an odd-man break.

Take, for example, Kasparaitis' most prominent hit in December.

A week ago at the Civic Arena, in the Penguins' 4-2 victory over Phoenix, he eyed Coyotes center Jeremy Roenick skating through the neutral zone, began blazing toward him, then leveled him with a clean shoulder check.

"It pumps you up, for sure," Slegr said. "That's why you have a guy like this. When you see a hit like that one, you go 'Wow! We've all got to go like that.' "

Although Kasparaitis acknowledged, "I almost missed him," his calculated risk against Roenick established a bellicose edge to the Penguins' game that had been sorely lacking under Constantine. As Coyotes Coach Bobby Francis complained afterward, "Kasparaitis had an impact on this game ... and we were a little soft."

Brooks has recognized the benefits of a snarling Kasparaitis by encouraging his feisty forays and rewarding him with more ice time.

"He can set the stage," Brooks said. "He's a rambunctious, physical guy, and he can really pick your team up. But I'll tell you, he's a good athlete and I think he can do a few things with the puck, too. He's a great skater, and he plays with a lot of energy. He's very valuable."

That aspect of Kasparaitis' game also has been on display of late. He has joined the Penguins' rush, pinched along the boards, even carried the puck behind the opposing goal a few times.

"Our forwards are highly skilled, so you want to kind of join the offense a little bit," Kasparaitis said. "But that's not my priority. I still want to be a good defensive defenseman first."

Just as well.

Kasparaitis hasn't found the net since Jan. 26 and has only two assists this season, so don't expect him to challenge Jaromir Jagr -- or goaltender Tom Barrasso, for that matter -- in the team's scoring race.

But points aren't his signature, anyway. Ask Roenick. Or Eric Lindros.

Kasparaitis is one of the game's most feared competitors, and getting a chance to run rampant again has him grinning from ear to ear.

"It's great for me, and it's great for the whole team."

Just not for the next poor soul skating toward the Penguins' end with his head down. 

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