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28 октября. 2003 года. 
Morozov moving to top line - Post-Gazette 

By Dave Molinari

Aleksey Morozov entered training camp as the odds-on favorite to play right wing on the Penguins' No. 1 line.

Nearly three weeks into the season, he finally has the job.

Coach Eddie Olczyk overhauled his forward combinations during yesterday's practice at Mellon Arena, and the most significant switch has Morozov replacing Konstantin Koltsov on the top unit with Mario Lemieux and Martin Straka.

"It's going to be great, playing on the top line with Mario," Morozov said. "It's going to be really good."

Olczyk's other lines had Rico Fata between Ramzi Abid and Koltsov, Ryan Malone and Matt Bradley flanking Mike Eastwood and a four-man fourth unit of Kelly Buchberger, Brian Holzinger, Steve McKenna and Steve Webb. Center Milan Kraft skated as a spare forward on the No. 1 line.

The shakeup was neither surprising nor difficult to justify. The Penguins have just 12 goals -- second-fewest in the NHL -- in their first seven games, during which time they have gone 1-4-2.

"The team's not scoring much," Lemieux said. "We're trying to get some offense going. Hopefully, we'll be able to create some chances and put the puck in the net."

Olczyk made a point of praising the play of the Lemieux-Straka-Koltsov line during the Penguins' 7-2 loss to the New York Islanders at Nasau Coliseum on Saturday, especially early, but his logic for revamping all the lines is sound.

"We've only won one game," Olczyk said. "That's why."

Morozov was an obvious choice for the first-line job on several counts. He is tied with Straka and Rico Fata for the team lead with three goals, and has considerable experience on lines with Lemieux and Straka.

"I'm used to playing with him," Lemieux said. "We had good chemistry the last couple of years when we played together. We know each other's game. He knows where to go when I have the puck, and likewise."

Morozov has spent most of this season with Fata and Malone, and Olczyk challenged him to "pick up his game" to make the No. 1 line as effective as possible.

"He's going to have to go get pucks," Olczyk said. "And he's going to have to be a puck-pursuer."

That's an adjustment Morozov might have to make but, in general, he has a pretty good sense of what it takes to work well with Lemieux.

"You just try looking for [Lemieux] more," Morozov said. "See where he is, try to give him the puck and try to be open and he's going to feed you."

Lemieux is 38, but remains the driving force behind the Penguins' offense. He has a six-game scoring streak and needs just one point to become the sixth player in league history to collect 1,700 during his career.

Predictably, neutralizing Lemieux and his linemates has been the focus of opponents' game plans, and the Penguins' record underscores the merits of that strategy.

"There's certainly less space out there, especially in the neutral zone," Lemieux said. "It's tough to get going and create some offensive speed in the neutral zone."

Mind you, extra attention is nothing new for Lemieux. He's been playing against quality checking lines and top defense pairings for most of the past two decades.

The major difference now is that other teams can home in on Lemieux more than at any point since his first few years in the league. No longer do opponents worry about Alex Kovalev or Jaromir Jagr -- or Ron Francis, Robert Lang or Petr Nedved, among others -- hurting them if they gear defensive efforts toward Lemieux.

"It's easier if you don't have to worry about other guys," Lemieux said. "But that's the way the game is."

Lemieux and Straka are the only Penguins with established offensive credentials; players such as Fata, Malone, Abid and Koltsov might develop into reliable scorers eventually, but it's not realistic to expect that in the immediate future.

Lemieux also suggested that a sluggish transition game has hampered the Penguins' offense, and that, "we're just concentrating a little too much on our defense."

Striking a balance between efficient play at both ends of the rink can be tricky -- especially when stingy defense is the cornerstone of Olczyk's system -- and the offensive pedigrees of the Penguins' personnel won't etch fresh worry lines onto the faces of many opposing coaches.

Nonetheless, Lemieux contends the Penguins can manufacture enough goals to be competitive if they approach their work wisely.

"We still have some pretty good players," he said. "We just have to regroup and create some offense. Send some guys to the net and keep it simple for a while until we score a few goals and get the offense back."

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