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Flames' Saprykin still on learning curve - nhl.com
By Nancy Koenig | Special to NHL.com
Oleg Saprykin has learned an important rule about enigmatic stretches of hockey - be careful when you time them.
When a team is playing solid hockey, an individual player on a roll seems to attract more attention than usual. Likewise, when a team is having a rough go of things, it's impossible to endure a solo struggle without catching some flack.
And if your team happens to be losing ground in a tight playoff race, the gap between hero and scapegoat gets that much wider. Switching roles repeatedly in a short period of time is also not recommended.
A few weeks ago, the Calgary Flames held the fifth playoff spot in the
Western Conference and looked poised to distance themselves from the competition.
Saprykin got an individual lift when he was placed on a line with Jarome
Iginla and Dean McAmmond. Saprykin's early season struggles seemed to be
behind him as he lavishly displayed the gifts that made him a first-round
draft selection in 1999.
"I had a tough time the first half of season, but now things are better," he said after a Flames' win on Long Island in early January. "We're playing much better as a team and now I'm playing with Jarome and Dean. I'm learning every day and every shift; those guys help me on the bench and on the ice."
"It's been great," Iginla said of the combination. "Playing with him, you get a lot of chances. He plays hard and wins a ton of battles. He's a great skater and he's a goal scorer. Any time you play with a guy like that, your line is going to get chances."
Pleased by the chemistry and results generated by the union, GM/head coach Darryl Sutter was also quick to sing the young Russian's praises.
"Oleg has been really, really good for us this season," Sutter said.
"He's got a ton of talent. And he's helped out Jarome; they feed off each
Saprykin stood out again in losses to the Maple Leafs (Jan. 13) and Stars (Jan. 17), but this time it was a collection of undisciplined penalties, backchecking assignments gone awry, missed opportunities and a lack of fire that drew Sutter's attention and a few disparaging comments.
Days later, Saprykin managed to leave his uninspired alter ego behind, shining in a 5-1 victory over the Mighty Ducks.
And so it goes.
But before anyone sends a tape of his inconsistent play to Unsolved Mysteries, bear in mind the following facts. Saprykin just turned 22 in December. This is only his third full season in the NHL and the first in which he hasn't spent substantial time in the minors. While you're at it, you may as well note that seven of his 18 points this season came in his last 11 appearances.
Iginla believes the flashes of great play Saprykin has shown of late
have been sneak previews for what is to come.
"He's a very talented player and he's working hard. His confidence is just going to continue to grow and he's going to be very good. He's already helping us a lot."
While Sutter's words may not always be as flattering, Saprykin is thankful for the ability to understand them, memories from his early days in North America still fresh enough to make him cringe.
"It's tough when you don't speak the language," he said. "You never know what people are talking about, whether they're talking badly about you behind your back or supporting you. I was like a little kid when I got here, not knowing what was going on or what I was doing."
Saprykin has come a long way in his understanding and now knows exactly what is expected of him. And when the Flames find the consistency they demonstrated earlier this season, he plans to be a player that stands out for only the right reasons
Страничка Олега Сапрыкина на
сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
21 мая. Олег Сапрыкин:
Я не верю в свое счастье! - Советский Спорт
21 мая. Олег Сапрыкин: Я не верю в свое счастье! - Советский Спорт