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сентября 2001 года.
Is this the year Morozov finally breaks through? // "Tribune-Review"
By Joe Starkey
Time to talk to about Aleksey Morozov's impressive training camp. About his soft hands. About his skating ability. About his uncertain place in the lineup. About his immense potential - and about whether this is the year he finally lives up to it.
At least one important member of the Penguins organization believes the enigmatic right winger still can be a star. But Mario Lemieux says Morozov must decide, once and for all, to dedicate himself to that pursuit.
"He just has to show a little bit more to the organization, obviously, and show that he really wants to play in the NHL and be a star in the NHL," Lemieux said. "That's all he's missing. He's got all the talent in the world. But you also have to have the desire and the grit to get in there and help your team. He's a good team player, but he has to show a little more."
Morozov, 24, showed signs of life in the playoffs after a robustly ineffective regular season in which he scored a career-low five goals in 66 games and spent some time on the trading block.
In the playoffs, he played mostly on the third line with Wayne Primeau and Kevin Stevens and showed some real grit. He didn't exactly light up the scoreboard, but he did have six points (three goals, three assists) in 18 games.
"He made a lot of progress last year down the stretch and especially in the playoffs," Lemieux said. "He played very well for us. He's a great skater and has a great shot. He just has to show a little more."
Morozov's other teammates agree with that assessment. Two of them, Martin Straka and Robert Lang, can relate to Morozov's struggles.
Lang was in his late 20's before he established himself. Straka had a fast start to his career, then bounced around for a few years before finding his way again.
"Alex needs to get it in his head that, `This is my time,' and then make the best of it," Lang said. "If he does that, he'll be fine. Sometimes, it takes a long time, but if you keep working and don't get down on yourself, eventually, you'll get a chance."
Said Straka: "He has a lot of skills. He's gotta show it every night and prove it every night."
Morozov proved it last night in the first period of the Penguins' first preseason game, against the Atlanta Thrashers. He made a breathtaking, between-the-legs play to keep possession of the puck in the neutral zone, then fed Kris Beech in stride for a shorthanded goal.
The perennial question with Morozov is, will he get the chance when he is producing?
As usual, he's having an impressive training camp. He was tied for the scoring lead in the intra-squad tournament with eight points in four games. But Morozov led the team in preseason scoring last year, and all it got him was a seat on the bench for the entire season opener and precious few shifts after that.
"I started to get ice time in the playoffs," said Morozov, who was the Penguins' first-round draft pick in 1995. "That's what's really important for me right now, is to get good ice time."
Morozov appears to have applied himself during his off-season in Moscow. He added four pounds of muscle - going from 198 pounds to 202 - and has a body-fat count of 9 percent, down from 16 percent two years ago.
"I feel like I'm ready for this season, and I want to show everybody that I can play in this league and help these guys win the Stanley Cup," he said.
No doubt, Morozov would have a better chance of putting up big numbers if he played on one of the top two lines. But he wasn't going to do that with Jaromir Jagr and Alexei Kovalev in front of him. And even though Jagr is gone, it appears that Stephane Richer will play right wing on Lemieux's line.
That probably leaves third-line duty as Morozov's most realistic option, at least at the start of the season, and it's hard for a talented offensive player to make the most of his skills playing on the third line.
Head coach Ivan Hlinka isn't sure where Morozov will fit into the lineup, but Hlinka still believes in Morozov's talent.
"If he gets his chance, he has to take it," Hlinka said. "Hockey is about being consistent, all year. I believe he will take his chance."
Aleksey Morozov's goal-scoring output in his first four seasons:
Season Games Goals
1997-98 76 13
1998-99 67 9
1999-00 68 12
2000-01 66 5