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декабря 2003 года.
Koltsov still gaining speed for Penguins - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Dave Molinari
A couple of decades or so ago, European players were a novelty in the National Hockey League. So rare, in fact, that there wasn't much of a scouting report on them.
Just a stereotype.
Any player from the far side of the Atlantic Ocean was presumed to be
talented, but timid. Someone who could hurt your team, unless he was convinced
you would hurt him worse.
That kind of narrow-minded logic seems laughable today, because Europeans such as Ulf Samuelsson, Vladimir Konstantinov, Tomas Sandstrom and Vaclav Varada, among many others, long ago proved they could be every bit as dirty and nasty and rugged as any North American.
Of course, if Penguins winger Konstantin Koltsov, a native of Belarus, had been in the first wave of Europeans to reach the NHL, the stereotype might have been entirely different.
"He has no fear," Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk said yesterday.
Except, perhaps, of failure.
That would explain why Koltsov isn't reluctant to take his 6-foot, 206-pound frame to the front of the opponents' net every time he goes onto the ice. To absorb countless slashes and cross-checks and rabbit punches, on the chance that he might be able to screen the goalie, deflect a shot or collect a rebound.
"I don't worry about that [punishment]," Koltsov said. "In this game, if you want to score a goal, you must go to the net."
Nothing revolutionary there. Thirty coaches around the league preach that to hundreds of players, but few embrace the concept as willingly as Koltsov.
"He'll do whatever it takes to get pucks," Olczyk said.
But while Koltsov's efforts have been rewarded with 11 assists, second-most among NHL rookies, his shooting percentage is low enough to make a backup goalie blush.
He enters the Penguins' game against Buffalo at 7:38 p.m. today at Mellon Arena with 48 shots -- more than any teammate except Ryan Malone (59) and Dick Tarnstrom (54) -- but only two goals.
His conversion rate is the second-worst of any Penguins player who has a goal, surpassed only Matt Bradley, who is shooting 1 for 29 (3.4 percent) from the field.
The perplexing thing is, Koltsov has shown flashes of skill that is not just worthy of the NHL, but downright exceptional. Two of the three goals he recorded as part of a preseason hat trick bordered on breathtaking, as did his first NHL goal, Oct. 30 in Chicago.
Olczyk, for one, believes those sequences are not flukes, but portents. That the question is not whether Koltsov will be a consistent scorer in this league, but when.
"He will," Olczyk said. "Sometimes with [Koltsov], his legs are going so quick that he has to get his hands to catch up a little bit. But that comes with maturity, and that comes with playing every night and knowing the players and knowing the teams."
Of course, Koltsov is so fast that if his hands ever do pull even with his feet, he might become the first NHL player to score 100 goals in a season.
He didn't always have extraordinary speed -- Koltsov credits an eight-week camp in Sweden when he was 15 years old with making him so fast -- but it was his skating that prompted the Penguins to claim him with their first choice in the 1999 entry draft. And that remains his most effective asset.
Center Milan Kraft calls Koltsov "the fastest I've ever had on my wing," and the value of Koltsov's speed was underscored in the Penguins' 5-3 victory against Columbus Saturday.
The Blue Jackets were up, 2-1, during the final minute of the opening period, and Columbus defenseman Scott Lachance had the puck behind his goal line.
There was nothing particular menacing about the situation. At least not until Koltsov, whose speed seemed to catch Lachance flat-footed, charged in the forecheck, causing Lachance to lose control of the puck.
It squirted to Murley, whose cross-ice pass to Kraft hit a skate of Columbus defenseman Derrick Walser and skidded past Blue Jackets goalie Fred Brathwaite to tie the score.
"As far as puck pursuit -- pure puck pursuit, I'm not talking about the smarts of it -- there aren't many guys [better]," Olczyk said. "Once he starts knowing the players and the tendency of players and reading the situations and knowing what players' options are, he's going to be even better."
If Koltsov doesn't improve, it won't be because of an aversion to perspiration. Yesterday, he was on the ice long after practice ended, deflecting shots taken by assistant coach Joe Mullen.
"Everybody can score," Koltsov said. "It's just work."
And, to hear Olczyk tell it, in Koltsov's case, it also is just a matter of time.
"His skating's always going to be there," Olczyk said. "Now, it's up to me to help him become even more polished, but that's going to take time. The only way that's going to happen is by playing games.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as I'm concerned."
16 декабря. Koltsov still gaining speed for Penguins
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
16 декабря. Koltsov still gaining speed for Penguins - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette