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Dual reasons keep Kozlov in town - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By GUY CURTRIGHT
Slava Kozlov, trying to keep a straight face, quips that the real reason he re-signed with the Thrashers was because of his dogs.
"My two mini dachshunds don't like snow," Kozlov says, breaking into a wide smile.
That may be true. But Kozlov was eager to stay in Atlanta for two much more important reasons -- Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Kozlov won two Stanley Cups as the young protege on star-laden Detroit Red Wings teams. Now, it's the 31-year-old left winger who is the veteran mentor.
"Slava is your ultimate pro," Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said. "Dany and Ilya really look up to him."
When Waddell acquired Kozlov in a trade a year ago, it was thought he immediately would bond with fellow Russian Kovalchuk, teaching the 20-year-old the NHL ropes on and off the ice.
Instead, Kozlov forged a greater connection with the 22-year-old Heatley, especially on the ice. Paired with right winger Heatley on the top line for the second half of the season, Kozlov had 17 goals and 29 assists. He finished with a team-record 49 assists in his 70 points.
Heatley was the recipient of many of Kozlov's passes. In just his second season, Heatley was ninth in the NHL with 89 points (41 goals and 48 assists).
"I used to be selfish a little bit," Kozlov admitted. "Now I enjoy it as much when someone else scores a goal."
"Dany finds the seams, and Slava gets him the puck," Waddell said.
"You can't really explain the chemistry, except that we keep the puck moving," Heatley said. "But by the end of the season, you could definitely see that we were on the same page."
Waddell made re-signing unrestricted free agent Kozlov his top offseason priority. But it wasn't until July 26 that Waddell and Kozlov's agent, Scott Lites, finally reached agreement on the biggest contract in team history -- $10 million over three seasons, plus an option year.
"I spent more time talking to the agent than I did to my wife this summer," Waddell joked.
"It was huge to get Slava re-signed," Heatley said. "I didn't talk to him during the negotiations, but I stayed in touch with Don and followed what was going on. For sure, we needed him back."
"I always wanted to come back," Kozlov said. "I like Atlanta, and it's great to play with Dany. He is one of the most exciting players in the NHL."
The same could be said about Kovalchuk, who finished second to Heatley in voting for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie two years ago. But while Heatley shows maturity beyond his years, the same can't always be said about volatile Kovalchuk.
"Dany is a leader already," Kozlov said. "For his age, he is great player and a great leader. He doesn't need my help. He's smart enough. He knows what to do.
"With Ilya, it's different. He's young. He's still a kid. But he'll learn. He's stubborn. I tell him something and he's upset. But in the next couple days he'll do it my way. He just won't do it right away."
The Thrashers were 19-14-5-1 after Bob Hartley took over as coach last January, including 8-3-1-1 down the stretch. When training camp opens in September, the team will be counting on a playoff berth this season.
"Anything less would be a real disappointment," Heatley said.
"I think we will shock people," Kozlov added. "You'll see."
3 апреля. Атланта - город для Славы Козлова -
3 апреля. Атланта - город для Славы Козлова - Советский Спорт
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