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|5 декабря 2006
Kozlov in middle of tear // Newsday
BY GREG LOGAN
So was it the move from the wing to center that put Viktor Kozlov in touch with his inner goal scorer? After scoring five goals in the Islanders' first 24 games, Kozlov scored six goals in a 24-hour span to lead them to road wins over Pittsburgh and the Rangers and into first place in the division.
It was an amazing feat, but it's easier done than explained, especially in a second language for the reticent Russian. "I don't know," Kozlov said yesterday. "I just enjoy the moment, which I have right now. I will play wherever coach will put me, you know. So to play center, so far, it has worked, and I hope it will go the same way."
Kozlov's joyful smile after his third and fourth goals enabled the Isles to pull away to a 7-4 win Sunday night at Madison Square Garden still was there yesterday. He was named the NHL's first star of the week while totaling seven goals and two assists in four games since moving to the middle after captain and leading scorer Alexei Yashin suffered a sprained right knee.
Reflecting on the first four-goal game of his career, Kozlov said: "That was a big game for us, and of course, it feels great to beat them at Madison Square Garden. And we are back in first place again, so that feels great."
Considering the Islanders' 5-3 win at Pittsburgh began at 7:30 Saturday night and the Rangers game ended at 7:30 Sunday night, what Kozlov and the Islanders did in a 24-hour span that included a flight home was all the more impressive. "We got very good momentum after the Pittsburgh game, and it was like a very tough game for us, as well," Kozlov said. "We had a good start against the Rangers probably because of that."
With Ottawa visiting Nassau Coliseum tonight, the focus ordinarily would be on Yashin facing his former team. But now, the question is whether the silver lining to Yashin's injury is that the Islanders have uncovered another scoring center.
Kozlov last played center the final 11 games of the 2003-04 season after he was traded from Florida to New Jersey. He returned to wing while playing in Russia during the lockout and stayed there last season with the Devils. Asked if he wants to remain at center when Yashin returns, Kozlov said he'll do whatever coach Ted Nolan asks.
"I'm not too sure it's the move to center ice more so than the way he's shooting the puck," Nolan said of Kozlov's scoring binge. "Before, he was maybe a little too generous with his passing. Now, Viktor's in the top slot. Don't think about passing; think about shooting. The last couple years, he didn't shoot enough."
When Yashin first went down, Nolan paired Kozlov with the Isles' leading goal scorer, Jason Blake, who assisted on a Kozlov goal in their first game together. But Nolan moved Blake to a line with Mike Sillinger and Arron Asham and put Andy Hilbert with Kozlov and Chris Simon for the past two games.
"Viktor was maybe trying to play like Yashin a little bit by getting Blake the puck," Nolan said. "Andy Hilbert's been great on that line. Now, Viktor's in a position to get the puck and get in those holes and fire it. When he has a chance to shoot in the high slot, it's pretty tough for any goaltender to stop."
Notes & quotes: Yashin skated for the first time yesterday since suffering his injury but gave no timetable for his return . . . Bridgeport forward Jeremy Colliton will be called up today if an unnamed Islander is not cleared to play, but he will not replace Eric Boguniecki.
Star of stars
Islanders center Viktor Kozlov was named the NHL's first star of the week after scoring seven goals and two assists for nine points in four games. The last six goals came in two consecutive road games, including four against the Rangers on Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only five players in NHL history have accomplished such a feat. Here's the list: