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18 января 2002 года.
Wanted: Ozolinsh of old // The Miami Herald

Panthers confident defenseman hasn't lost touch  


Sandis Ozolinsh says he has changed, matured if you will. Like most of us, Ozolinsh stays home more than he did as a young adult. He sometimes says no to being a defenseman on the go.  

``Pretty soon, I'll be 30,'' Ozolinsh said, as if that's the age at which you begin hanging back to leave the rush to the youngsters.  

That's not what the Panthers want, of course. They want the rambler and gambler who starred for Colorado and San Jose, helping the Avalanche to the 1996 Stanley Cup and San Jose to first-round playoff upsets in 1994 and 1995.  

They don't want the guy who produced a baker's dozen of turnovers per week in Carolina the past season and a half.  

``He's a world-class player who has had two really poor years,'' Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said.  

Ozolinsh doesn't know why he didn't smoke in tobacco country.  

``Some blame it on going from the [more open] West to the East,'' Ozolinsh said. ``Some blame it on the contract.''  

The contract to which the Hurricanes signed him -- five years, $25 million -- was a major investment for Carolina.  

Money is often cited whenever a highly paid player fails. Either he's seen as trying too hard to live up to the contract or too comfortable with his guaranteed salary.  
Often last season, Ozolinsh seemed like a parody of himself. He was wildly dangerous in his own zone, and his offensive thrusts were consistently ill-timed. Plus-minus ratings can be misleading, but a team-low minus-25 is a statistical scarlet letter on a defenseman.  

Tonight's game at Dallas should see a more typical Ozolinsh effort than Wednesday's 3-0 loss to Chicago. After a day of traveling and in his first game with his new team, Ozolinsh played a conservative game. Defensively, he lost Michael Nylander on the Blackhawks' third goal.  

``He did everything that I expected of him,'' Panthers coach Mike Keenan said. ``In fact, he played stronger defense than I expected him to. He had the opportunity to initiate a lot of offense. Our players just didn't read off of him. A couple of times, he sent guys in with great passes, and they couldn't handle it, weren't even expecting it, so maybe it's an adjustment of them as forwards.'' 

Страничка Сандиса Озолиньша на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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