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Ковальчук не умеет забивать стандартной клюшкой.
В шестом матче подряд Илья Ковальчук не сумел поразить ворота соперника. Итог - «Атланта Трэшерс» потерпели седьмое поражение подряд, на этот раз в Майями от «Флориды Пэнтерс» 2:5 и остались на 11 месте в Восточной конференции, опережая ту же «Флориду» теперь всего на два очка.
Ковальчук, забросивший 11 шайб в семи играх с 1 по 13 января, отметился в матче против «пантер» точной передачей, однако очень часто выглядел на льду довольно дискомфортно. Причина – новая клюшка. Тренер «Атланты» Боб Хартли запретил Илье использовать клюшки с нестандартным и нелегальным изгибом крюка. Это решение подтвердил генеральный менеджер клуба Дон Уэддел в чате на usatoday.com.
Именно из-за нелегальной клюшки Ковальчука, «Трэшерс» получили двухминутный штраф в предыдущем поединке против «Буффало» и потеряли возможность отыграться на последних минутах.
«Пол-лиги играет неправильными клюшками. Почему претензии только ко мне? Что ж, в следующий раз буду осторожнее... Зачем я играю клюшкой с таким загибом? С детства привык. Тем более в Европе это разрешено,» - сказал Ковальчук после матча с «Буффало», но теперь хочешь, не хочешь, но Илье придется перестраиваться.
3 февраля 2006 года.
Hartley clamps down on repeated stick violations
By JOHN MANASSO
When Ilya Kovalchuk takes the ice Friday night he will be using a legal stick — now mandated by Thrashers coach Bob Hartley to the entire team — but he will be doing so as part of the third line.
Kovalchuk practiced on Thursday with center Serge Aubin and right wing Jim Slater. Hartley said he would remain there for Friday's game at Florida. Peter Bondra took Kovalchuk's spot on the top line with Marc Savard and Scott Mellanby. The second line of Slava Kozlov, Patrik Stefan and Marian Hossa remained intact as the Thrashers try to snap a six-game losing streak.
In reference to Kovalchuk's recent play — he is goal-less in five straight and has had defensive lapses — Hartley called the left wing's illegal stick penalty in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Buffalo "a peanut in an elephant's stomach."
Nonetheless, after a day of reflection Hartley said before Thursday's practice that he instructed the team not to use illegal sticks, which results in a two-minute penalty.
"Yesterday I was thinking about this, why play with a gun at your head all of the time?" Hartley said. "Especially now, the games mean so much. We cannot afford to lose a game because of an illegal stick. It would be an awful blow to all of us to lose a game because of an illegal stick."
But he did not want to single out Kovalchuk, the league's leading goal-scorer. On Wednesday, Hartley said 15-20 percent of NHL players use illegal sticks and that Kovalchuk needed to be more careful about when he used an illegal stick.
"It's not only about Kovy," he said on Thursday. "It's not a Kovy rule. We had four or five guys playing with illegal sticks."
He then took the NHL to task for what he saw as an inconsistency in the rule: Players may be called for an illegal stick penalty in a game, but not during a shootout.
"As a league, we will need to address this issue," he said. "I think we have to look at the fact that illegal sticks are allowed in the shootout. . . . You cannot call an illegal stick in a shootout. So a guy can basically come in with a bazooka and there's nothing you can do."
Hartley said the Thrashers dodged two possible illegal stick infractions recently. Nashville was going to challenge Kovalchuk's stick last month, but dropped it and accused the Thrashers of not producing the stick in question. Hartley also said as revenge for Kovalchuk pointing at Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby after scoring a power-play goal with the rookie in the penalty box, he spied Penguins coach Michel Therrien about to challenge Kovalchuk's stick before a faceoff. However, Kovalchuk jumped back onto the bench and swapped the stick for a legal one.
On Dec. 22 in a home game against Washington, Kovalchuk was suspended for one game when he threw a broken stick into the stands. In reference to that incident, Hartley said, "I'm surprised the stick he threw in the stands, it didn't get back to him because usually a boomerang comes back to you. I was coaching in Colorado and that was the talk of our dressing room. He has a curve that can almost go around you."
But Hartley said he was less worried about Kovalchuk's stick than his overall play. On Wednesday the coach called Kovalchuk's weak back-checking a day earlier, which led to Buffalo's short-handed goal — the game winner — "unacceptable."
"Kovy is our franchise player and Kovy is only 22 years old," Hartley said. "We have to make him better. Some of the stuff he does hurts us."
Kovalchuk left the team's practice facility on Thursday before all the players had left the ice. He said his girlfriend is returning to Russia tomorrow and he was making last-minute travel arrangements.
Reached later by telephone, he said he the line change was "no problem."
"It doesn't matter who I play with," Kovalchuck said. "It's not a big deal."
Asked if Hartley was trying to send him a message, he responded, "We all didn't play well the last few games. He's trying to send a message to me, but to everybody."
Of Kovalchuk's early exit from the practice facility, his closest friend on the team, Slava Kozlov, said, "We have to catch a plane. I think he's upset. I like when Kovy's upset. He got benched a few years ago in New Jersey and the next game he scored two goals. He's going to recover quick. We're going to support him because he's part of our team."
12 января. Preds question Kovalchuk's stick //
7 января. Илья Ковальчук: "Ягр и Кросби мне не конкуренты"
25 декабря. From Russia with love. Kovalchuk grateful
for family's presence // The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
12 января. Preds question Kovalchuk's stick // "Теннессиан"
7 января. Илья Ковальчук: "Ягр и Кросби мне не конкуренты" // "Спорт-Экспресс"
25 декабря. From Russia with love. Kovalchuk grateful for family's presence // The Atlanta Journal-Constitution