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декабря 1999 года.
So far, Shtalenkov a perfect fit in goal
BY JUAN C. RODRIGUEZ
The unassuming Shtalenkov endeared himself to teammates and Panthers fans with two standout efforts. He totaled 54 saves in back-to-back victories at Buffalo, 4-2, and Pittsburgh, 5-2, two cities where Florida had not won since 1997.
For Shtalenkov and the Panthers, the value of those road wins goes beyond four points in the standings. Acquired from Phoenix earlier this month in exchange for goalie Sean Burke, Shtalenkov is that much closer to proving he can play like a front-line goaltender while Kidd recovers from a separated shoulder.
With a 4-0-0 record as a starter since joining the team, Shtalenkov has helped the Panthers maintain a confidence level they haven't enjoyed since their 1996 Stanley Cup run. Florida is one victory shy of its first five-game winning streak since 1995.
``It hurt a little bit losing Kidder, but the way Shtalenkov is playing, I don't think we're going to miss him too much right now,'' right wing Mark Parrish said. ``He was playing well for Phoenix earlier in the year, then he got traded to us, so it wasn't like he took a step down.''
Shtalenkov's performance with the Coyotes earned him NHL Player of the Month in October. Questions about his endurance and consistency have come up during a seven-year pro career, but this season it appears he is more than a one-month wonder.
In 15 starts for Phoenix, Shtalenkov, 34, held opponents to two or fewer goals six times. He has done that four times in as many starts with Florida. His 2.39 goals-against average at the time of the trade now is down to 2.28.
``He certainly wanted to show us he's capable of October's performance again,'' said Panthers coach Terry Murray, whose team plays host to Northeast Division-leading Toronto tonight at National Car Rental Center. ``He saw the puck very well both games. He was under control and poised. He conserves his movement out there. He gave us a lot of confidence.''
Stopping 25 shots against a Pittsburgh team that had not lost in four outings has a way of instilling confidence. The Penguins had not scored fewer than four goals a game during that stretch. Jaromir Jagr was coming off a five-point effort, but Shtalenkov turned away all but one of Jagr's five shots.
``In the first period, we made some mistakes, but Shtalenkov was standing up there making some big saves,'' defenseman Todd Simpson said. ``We had that before with Kidd, too.''
What the Panthers also had was a stifling defense. Through 33 games, the Panthers are surrendering 2.1 goals per game.
``Shtalenkov is a veteran goalie, and he's very capable to play very well,'' Murray said. ``Everybody's playing hard for him. We know we put him in a tough situation with the injury, and we want to do a good job on the defensive part of the game to let Mikhail get his feet under him again.''
Added Shtalenkov: ``If you play good defensively and have skill players like we have, something good is going to happen offensively. Maybe not every night, but it'll work in the long run.''
For now, Shtalenkov is looking like an exceptional short-term solution in goal.
Страничка Михаила Шталенкова
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