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|24 марта 2008 года.
Kozlov's ice time shrinks under Waddell // The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Despite career-low numbers, Russian forward happy he stuck around
By CRAIG CUSTANCE
Maybe Slava Kozlov's wife Tanya was right. When he was a free agent this summer, she suggested to him that it was time for a change.
After four strong seasons for the Thrashers, in which Kozlov averaged 24 goals and 68 points, she sensed it was time to move.
"She wanted to try a change in lifestyle, another city," Kozlov said after practice Monday. "She told me last summer we should move. I said, 'I like it here.' I thought I made the right decision."
He still thinks so. He has no regrets about the three-year, $11 million contract he signed last July.
"I'll always believe in this team and I still think it's a pretty good spot for me," Kozlov said. "It's a good organization, we just have to improve."
But you could understand if his wife is now saying, 'I told you so.'
One year after totaling 80 points, the highest point total of his career, Kozlov's production has dropped in half.
He'll need three goals in the Thrashers last five games to reach 20 goals for the fifth consecutive season and 11th time in his career. He's on pace for his lowest output over an entire season since he had 38 points in 72 games for Detroit during the 2000-01 season.
The one common thread between those rough seasons for Kozlov? Playing time.
In three of his first four seasons with the Thrashers, he averaged more than 20 minutes per game. This year, he's under 16 minutes per game.
"I didn't play a lot after Bob [Hartley] got fired. I didn't play the power play — most of my points last year I got on the power play," Kozlov said. "For some reason it changed this season."
Thrashers head coach and general manager Don Waddell, who wasn't available to the media after practice on Monday, has played Kozlov on a checking line for most of the season. Kozlov is averaging 2:51 on the power play each game and only 16 seconds of penalty kill duty per game.
Last year under Hartley, Kozlov's 5:07 of power play time per game trailed only Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk and Kozlov averaged 1:29 per game on the penalty kill.
His 37 power play points were the second highest on the team last season, five more than Kovalchuk.
Kozlov has just 14 power-play points all year this season.
"I played with [Hossa] last year, that was the reason I got 80 points. But mostly it's ice time," he said. "There's nothing I can do, it's a coaches decision and I'll always respect coaches."
So why the drop in ice time?
The only coach available on Monday, associate Brad McCrimmon, said he didn't have an answer.
"You'd have to ask the higher pay-scaled individual than me, I can't answer that," he said. "I don't run that."
At times, Kozlov disappears from games, especially when he's not skating with a similar European style forward, working the give-and-go he and Hossa perfected.
His penchant to occasionally coast on defense might have cost the Thrashers a few goals this season, which is magnified when coupled with a decrease in scoring.
McCrimmon said effort hasn't been the issue this year for Kozlov, but the Russian forward concedes that staying mentally focused while losing is a challenge for him.
"I think when you're winning, you have fun and enjoy it," Kozlov said. "When you're in deep [trouble], that's when it hurts. Your muscles, your body and mentally you're very disappointed and it's tough. The good players have to go through the tough times. That's how they become better players."
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