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ноября 2008 года.
The quiet type: Thrashers' Kovalchuk lets his game speak for him // The Atlanta Journal - Constitution
You see Ilya Kovalchuk's face on the schedule card, his talent on the ice, his No. 17 jerseys on the backs of Thrashers fans, his 52 goals in two of the past three seasons, and you ask: Why isn't this man captain?
"Kovy's a great candidate," coach John Anderson said, "because he's been with the organization [since 2001, longer than any other player]. I think he's got another couple of years on his contract [through the 2009-10 season], hopefully many more. That's what you want to identify the Atlanta Thrashers with, Kovalchuk, 17 with a 'C' on his sweater. That would be a great thing. But I don't think we're at that stage yet."
Kovalchuk is one of five alternate captains; the Thrashers have no captain.
Two things hold Kovalchuk back. On the ice, he's still learning when to make the safe play that will help the team rather than trying to do too much at the risk of a negative result. Instead of realizing he's cornered and chipping the puck into the zone, he'll go for a great play that could result in a turnover and an odd-man rush the other way.
Off the ice, he doesn't embrace the role of being the face of the team. "I never think about it. I just play," Kovalchuk said. "I'm not here to be the franchise's face or anything. I just try to play and be the best for my team, try to win every night."
That modesty might keep him from being a commanding locker room presence. For example, when the doors open to reporters within five minutes after a game, Kovalchuk often is among those who are gone. The players who remain end up speaking for the team. (Kovalchuk will return if a reporter makes a request for him through a team publicist.)
Things reportedly aren't different when only his teammates are around; Kovalchuk isn't the type to make speeches. "I don't want to push him over the edge with it, but as a team leader you have to have that ability to step out and say, OK, here we are, and what is it that I need to do, and what is it that I need to say and know how to say it," Anderson said.
To some extent, Kovalchuk's game speaks for him.
"Kovy's the rare player," linemate Erik Christensen said. "You don't see [many other] wingers who are leaders of a team," he added, putting Kovalchuk in the company of longtime Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
Kovalchuk isn't selfish. He ranks second on the team with 10 assists, including a backhanded pass Sunday night that set up Christensen's first goal of the season.
But Anderson wants Kovalchuk to become more than an offensive machine. He wants to see a player who does the little things that help the team win but that many people don't notice.
Anderson sees him do those things sometimes, such as when Kovalchuk blocked a shot near the end of a one-goal victory, and when Kovalchuk decided against shooting at an empty net in the closing seconds and instead dumped the puck into a safe area short of the goal line to kill time without risking an icing call.
"I want to see team leadership like that," Anderson said. "Maybe that's turning into captain material. I don't know. That's certainly a step in the right direction.
"Once he does the right things all the time, you're going to see that Yzerman, the Gretzky-ish, whatever you want to call it, the Lemieux-type things, the complete player. We're still seeing a work in progress here. I'm excited, because he's starting to do these things.
"He's doing some things I never thought he'd do."
Anderson, 51, and Kovalchuk, 25, both say they're building their relationship and becoming closer. Anderson says he wants two-way communication and, "We're kind of getting to the stage that he's talking to me."
Kovalchuk resists any suggestion he merits or wants special treatment or a word in how things are done.
"I'm the player. He's the coach. So whatever he asks me to do, I do," he said. "It doesn't matter how I see the game. Nobody cares how I see the game. It's about how he sees the game and what he wants.
"If every player is going to play like [the player] sees the game, we're going to be in the WHL or night hockey league."
One thing neither Anderson nor Kovalchuk expresses concern about is Kovalchuk's scoring. His six goals through 17 games project to a 29-goal season, the lowest total since his rookie season. But that's just a projection, and things change.
"It's a long season," Kovalchuk said. "Talk to me about it after the season."
"He'll hit a hot streak," Anderson said. "It's honestly not concerning me."