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|12 января 2004
Ulanov relishes second chance with Oilers - Edmonton Journal
Injuries to Cross, Smith left team looking for experienced defensive help
WASHINGTON - A second chance is what Igor Ulanov was after when he made his regular pilgrimages to the weight room and to the rink at the University of Toronto.
Then September rolled into October, and October gave way to November, and still the Russian defenceman was out of work.
"I've been playing for 25 years. I can't imagine myself without it," he said after finally landing back with the Edmonton Oilers a week ago.
"Any player would try and get back and play, especially if you have a chance to get back into the NHL. You do whatever it takes to get back."
Ulanov had been one of those unrestricted free agents who turned one good season into a windfall. After the 2000-01 season with the Oilers, he signed a three-year, $6-million US deal with the New York Rangers, then travelled from easy street to the unemployment line.
He bounced from New York to Florida, from the NHL to the AHL, before he was right out of the game.
"It's a crazy game, this NHL," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He goes from being a guy who left here to sign a real big, lucrative contract with New York -- a lot of people coveted him at that point -- then he's sitting on the outside looking in."
The Oilers signed the blue-liner to a 25-game trial contract in December and had him join the Toronto Roadrunners.
Injuries to captain Jason Smith and Cory Cross just hastened Ulanov's comeback.
He signed an NHL contract on Jan. 5, met up with the team in New Jersey, and proved to be a solid addition against the Devils and the road games that have followed.
Paired with Alexei Semenov in even-strength situations -- a union that should benefit the younger Russian -- Ulanov, 34, is also playing the point on the power play and logs time on the penalty kill.
"There's times you think there's a possibility you won't play again, especially not knowing what's going to happen next year (with the collective bargaining agreement), so it is in the back of your mind," Ulanov said. "This was an unbelievable chance for me.
"That was quite a journey I had for the last three years."
A good, gritty, regular-season defenceman for the Oilers, Ulanov developed into a liability in the playoffs, so much so that he was on the ice for three of the game-winning goals Dallas scored in that year's matchup, including the series-winning goal in Game 6.
MacTavish remembers the scenario well.
"It took a while to wash that from the memory banks," MacTavish said. "At the end of the playoffs that year he was under a lot of heat, not the least of which was from me, but when you reflect back ... he played exceptionally well for us. And that's how he had started the season.
"He had that type of game against Calgary in pre-season, didn't play in the opener, reeled his game back in, and played brilliantly throughout the year. For whatever reason, he couldn't turn it around in the playoff series.
"Toronto was a good opportunity for him, he played decent there, and we needed the experience with both Cory and Jason Smith being out.
"I don't think I've ever seen him play better.
"If he keeps that level of play up ... he's going to be a real big help
Страничка Игоря Уланова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
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12 января.Ulanov relishes second chance with Oilers - Edmonton Journal
6 января. Ulanov a smashing success - Edmonton Sun