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As he turns 42, Larionov keeps going strong - Michigan Live
By Ansar Khan
DETROIT -- He admits the long season and hectic travel schedule is taxing. And he often gets frustrated by the way games are officiated these days.
But nothing seems to stop Detroit Red Wings center Igor Larionov. At an age when most professional athletes are well into retirement, the oldest player in the NHL keeps going strong.
He turns 42 today and will celebrate by logging about 14 minutes of ice time against Anaheim at Joe Louis Arena.
"It's nice to be able to play at age 42," Larionov said. "When you play the game year after year, you don't feel the age. The bottom line is to stay mentally fresh. It's really hard because of the travel and there's so many games. But you have to go through and play as best you can."
He's played all but two games this season, picking up a goal and eight assists. With fellow center Pavel Datsyuk out for three weeks with a knee injury, Larionov's role might be expanded.
He's prepared. He stays fresh by not skating as much on off-days and doing two comprehensive off-ice workouts every week.
"When you skate a lot year after year, you have to change the scenery, and off-ice exercise helps you get your strength back," Larionov said.
Two glasses of wine a day also keeps fatigue away.
"It (wine) is not popular but I think it's healthy," Larionov said. "You have to be moderate, not drink two bottles a day. And it has to be quality wine."
It's not a conventional training method, but there's nothing ordinary about a player his age performing at the level he is.
"There's nothing standard about Igor, he's always done things differently," teammate Brendan Shanahan said. "I heard one story about when he was injured he fasted for several days in order to speed the healing.
"He's got a lot of unique ideas. Part of (his longevity) is he's taken great care of himself. The other part is he was born with something that other people just don't have."
Having launched his professional career at age 17 in the Soviet Union, Larionov has shown that a big heart can compensate for his lack of size (5-foot-9, 170 pounds).
"He has the puck a lot, that means he's going to get hit a lot," Wings defenseman Chris Chelios said. "For a guy who's handled the puck and has played as many years as he has, it's amazing to see the type of shape he's in."
Larionov is also a positive influence on the team's younger Russian players -- Datsyuk, Dmitri Bykov and Maxim Kuznetsov.
"To be around Igor is priceless," Wings coach Dave Lewis said. "There's nobody else that can command the respect he does."
Feeling his team lacked energy the night before, Lewis gave most of
the players over the age of 30 the day off Monday. Chelios, who missed
Sunday's game with what the team called a slightly fractured finger, practiced
Monday and said he'll play tonight. "I feel a lot better than I did two
days ago," said Chelios, who declined to confirm the nature of the injury.
"It was just something a little nagging. I had to wait a couple of days
for it to settle down." . . . An MRI Monday on Datsyuk's right knee revealed
a sprained medial collateral ligament. He's still expected to miss three
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