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января 2002 года.
Morozov finally has look of a scorer // Post-Gazette
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Aleksey Morozov the Penguins are witnessing now, the one who so artfully danced and darted around his opponents on this three-game swing through Western Canada, is the one they always believed they would have.
"Yeah, I know," he said yesterday. "I think about this, too. I look back sometimes and ask questions."
The questions were few when Morozov was taken in the first round of
the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. In the next two years, he rapidly ascended in
Russia to be considered the best player in the world outside the NHL. And
in 1997, when he made the Penguins' roster out of his first training camp,
his ceiling appeared limitless.
He scored 13 goals as a rookie and surprisingly blossomed into a reliable
defensive performer, usually on the third forward line. And then, he did
almost exactly that for the next four years, scoring nine, 12 and five
goals while never coming close to establishing himself as a player who
deserved to be on the top two lines.
"For a few years now, I've been on the third or fourth line, playing more defensive. For me, if you ask me, I see myself as a scorer. I want to be like our scoring guys, like Kovy, like Robert Lang, this type of player. Of course, it's important to play with great players. Being on the first two lines, that's where you score, where you have success."
But Morozov also blames himself.
He looks back at how he was when he joined the Penguins. The way he shunned working out and was easily knocked off the puck because of his wiry build. The way he knew almost no English and kept to himself.
He wonders now if he might have been better served by starting out in the minor leagues.
"It's tough to say for me. When I came, I was a young guy and I didn't know much. It's tough to say, if I went to the minors, maybe it would have been good for me. I would have a lot of ice time, score goals."
That's precisely what he's getting now, as he is no longer in a position
to complain about how often he plays or the quality of the help. Beginning
with the trip-opening, 5-2 loss Tuesday in Vancouver, he has taken a regular
shift next to Mario Lemieux and been planted as the triggerman in the high
slot on the power play.
Morozov first hooked up with Lemieux for the Eastern Conference final of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring and appeared to flash a bit of chemistry. He eagerly wanted more.
"When we got to training camp this year, everybody talked about how I would be playing with Mario. But now, it's half the season, and I've just started playing with him now."
With Lemieux's hip healed and his game only now starting to resemble top form, he and Morozov are making up for lost time. Morozov has carried the puck and taken the play to the net, with no signs of being awed by his Hall of Fame linemate. Lemieux, in turn, has taken advantage of the open ice to make his own plays or hit Morozov in empty spaces.
"That's what I keep telling him: Just to try to get open, and I'll get you the puck," Lemieux said. "The way I'm seeing the ice the past couple of games, I'm feeling better about making plays. If he gets open, there's a good chance he'll get the puck."
Lemieux is saying he would like to remain with Morozov for "a few weeks" to see if Morozov can be consistent or if his hat tricks will remain a once-every-three-years occurrence.
Morozov loves hearing it.
"That's so important for me. I believe you have to have a chance, on any line, to stay with your linemates for some time to learn about each other. For me, having a chance with Mario ... I need to improve myself. I know that. I need to work hard, especially now that I have this chance."
And if he seizes it, he knows he might be able to erase all that came before.
"No, not maybe. That's already done. That's over for me. I need to go