Реклама в Интернет * Все Кулички
Igor becomes Special 'K'. Kravchuk takes beating and keeps on ticking // "The Calgary Herald"
By Todd Kimberley
Normally, he's Igor the inscrutable.
Recently, he's been Igor the indestructible.
Igor Kravchuk, the taciturn Russian veteran on the Calgary Flames' blueline, has absorbed a trio of devastating - and sometimes illegal - blows to the head during the past two weeks of the National Hockey League club's schedule.
Whether it's a steel skull or an iron will, Kravchuk has survived them all. And on a club that remains among the league leaders in man-games lost to injury, Kravchuk is one of 11 Flames to suit up for every game this season.
The Northwest Division-frontrunning Flames (10-2-0-2) begin a brief two-game road trip Wednesday at Anaheim against the Mighty Ducks (6-7-1-0).
"It's part of the game, I guess," shrugged Kravchuk, 35. "I don't think it's being tough. I think guys should play by the rules, that's all."
During the Flames' 3-1 win Oct. 18 over the visiting Florida Panthers, Kravchuk took a suicide pass from goaltender Roman Turek, got rid of the puck just in time, and ended up being squashed against the end boards by a freight train named Peter Worrell, his head bouncing off the glass.
Five days after that, during a 6-2 loss at Chicago, Kravchuk took a vicious cross-check in the side of the head from Bob Probert, earning an ugly welt and stitches beside his left eye while Probert received a double minor penalty. And in the late stages of Saturday's 6-2 victory over Montreal, Kravchuk was run face-first into the end glass by Reid Simpson, who was flagged for a checking-from-behind major and a game ejection.
"He's a tough customer," noted defensive partner Bob Boughner, despite the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Russian rearguard's protestations to the contrary. "Unfortunately, he's been caught in a few situations where someone hasn't held their man up. But the odd time, you have to take that hit to make the play.
"He hasn't shied away, and he's come back out for the next shift. As a teammate, it makes you think a little more of him to see a guy bounce right back like that."
Plucked off waivers from the Ottawa Senators almost exactly a year ago, Kravchuk has arguably played his best stretch yet in a Calgary uniform to start this season.
Tied with Derek Morris for third on the team with a plus-7 rating, Kravchuk has also equalled Morris's total of 28 shots on net, thanks in large part to his involvement on the Flames' top power-play unit.
Kravchuk has tallied four assists in 14 games, and his lone goal of the season to date - a third-period marker Oct. 10 at Detroit - stood up as the game winner.
"Igor can play chess, not checkers," said coach Greg Gilbert. "He can see things happening one or two steps before they actually do, and that's a great gift. He's got the experience. He's got the smarts. He's shooting the puck more, which is a big bonus. Igor's doing all the things we knew he could do, and more."
A double Olympic gold medallist in 1998 and 1992, Kravchuk says the heady atmosphere in the Flames' dressing room is reminiscent of the aura he experienced back in Moscow for five seasons, from '87 through '92, as a member of the storied Red Army squad.
"It's not that I came up with this theory," said Kravchuk, who will earn $2.5 million US this winter. "Playing with Red Army team, the coaches and a lot of the players tried to build the psychology of winning.
"It gives you a lot of things. First of all, confidence. Second of all,
trust in your partners and yourself. Third, I'd say, it makes you a better
player overall. When you're on a winning streak, you just don't think you're
going to make a mistake."