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января 2002 года.
Ozolinsh relishes ice time // Miami Herald
Lots of action for new Panther
BY DAVID J. NEAL
All the Panthers had Tuesday off, but only defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh should have been given a trip to a spa.
Ozolinsh didn't just play five games in seven days while touring the NHL's Sun Belt. He lived on the ice. Ozolinsh averaged 27:56 of ice time, 30:25 in the four games under Panthers coach Mike Keenan.
``Definitely, I don't mind,'' Ozolinsh said. ``It keeps me focused all 60 minutes of the game.''
Last Tuesday, Ozolinsh played 17:57 in Carolina against Minnesota. He was traded to the Panthers the next morning and played 32:02 in Sunrise that night against Chicago. Friday in Dallas was an easy night, 27:48.
Back in South Florida on Saturday against Atlanta, the Panthers were down to five defensemen 7:42 into the game after Paul Laus fractured his wrist. Ozolinsh, one of the few remaining defensemen who didn't visit the penalty box, ran up 32:10.
Keenan's philosophy for his best players could be summed up as: ``Get back out there.'' He has an oft-repeated desire for a ``high fitness level'' to prevent top skaters from conking out near the finish line like Mario Andretti's Indy 500 rides.
``He's fit, isn't he?'' Keenan said of Ozolinsh. ``A good example is we had a really tough game [Saturday]. Maybe 15 minutes after I was in here [with the media], I went in the gym. Who's the guy working out? He played four games in five nights and the only guy working out was Sandis.
``There's no secret why the best players are the best players,'' Keenan continued. ``I know from my days in Vancouver and I know here, Pavel [Bure] works out every day before dinner, even though he practices in the morning.''
Bure was clearly giddy at having someone who can launch the forwards with crisp, in-stride passes. In general, every facet of the Panthers' passing this year has been atrocious.
``It's the first time I've played with a superstar defenseman in my career,'' Bure nearly gushed after Ozolinsh's three-assist game Monday against Montreal. ``It's nice to have somebody like him.''
Some games earlier in his career, the only rushes Ozolinsh didn't join were the other team's counter rushes. But he has directed his offensive enthusiasm more judiciously in Florida.
`The coach is giving me a lot of ice time,'' Ozolinsh said. ``In order to play well that many minutes, I have to really pick my spots when to help out our forwards.''
He had been playing 16-18 minutes with Carolina, but he wasn't the No. 1 defenseman, as he is with the Panthers.
His role with the Hurricanes was being taken by second-year man David Tanabe, the kind of promising offensive defenseman the Panthers don't have on the roster.
(The Panthers' two possible reasonable facsimiles were Tomas Malec, sent to Carolina in the Ozolinsh trade, and second 2001 first-round pick Lukas Krajicek, still in junior.)
``Sometimes, I would play over 20 minutes, the next game 15 or 16,''
Ozolinsh said. ``I didn't know what was going on. I stopped thinking, worrying
about it. I can't jump out on the ice when the coach doesn't want me to
be out there. I just kind of go with the flow.''