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февраля 2001 года.
Yashin keeps on smiling // Ottawa Sun
Martin credits Russian's 'great shot' for current hot streak
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Alexei Yashin is sporting a new look these days -- it's called a smile.
And lately, he's had plenty to be happy about.
Back in the NHL following last season's hiatus in such locales as Switzerland and Milan, the Senators centre has turned up his game and he's prepared to take it to another level as the race for the playoffs enters its final stretch.
A victory tonight against New Jersey at Continental Airlines Arena would move the Senators into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference -- two points ahead of the Devils with 26 games left.
"All I've ever wanted is for this team to have success," said Yashin, prior to the club's one-hour flight here. "I feel good about the position that we're in, but we have to keep playing well as a team.
"I try not to look at the points because there are going to be games where you don't play well and you get points and then there are games where you feel you played well but you end up with nothing."
The 27-year-old Yashin is the Senators' hottest player. Two months ago, he trailed Marian Hossa by 15 points for the club's scoring lead and today he sits three points in front with 26 goals and 31 assists.
Next to New Jersey's Alexander Mogilny, who has been scoring at a torrid pace himself, Yashin is the NHL's hottest player. He has 16 goals in 16 games along with eight assists for 24 points during that stretch.
In fact, should he continue on his current pace, Yashin would be only nine points behind the 94 points (44-50) he had in 1998-99.
"The guy is just playing really well," said Ottawa goaltender Patrick Lalime. "I don't know what's happened, maybe he's gotten confidence from putting so many by me in practice. It's helped him to score again.
"He's surprised me. I had seen him on television highlights and stuff like that before, but I didn't know that he was this talented. He's really been a great addition for us because the good players make everybody around them better. I think he went through a 10-game stretch where he didn't have any points. Imagine if he had scored then?"
Part of the reason for Yashin's success has been increased responsibility. He's received more ice time from coach Jacques Martin, but he's still not close to the 27 minutes that most of the top players in the game get.
Martin has been using him more in penalty killing situations. That wasn't the way it was at the start of the season, but the club's coaching staff knows Yashin has to be on the ice to make an impact.
The biggest difference Martin has seen is Yashin's shot. During the first half of the season, he took a lot of shots that missed the net and lately he's been deadly accurate. If you want proof, ask Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro.
"He's back playing the way he played before he left," said Martin. "He's playing well, but I think the biggest difference from the first half of the season is that he's shooting the puck a lot more.
"He's got a great shot and he just has to use it. If you look at the top players in the game, they have to shoot the puck and that's what we wanted to see from him. I think he's also probably hitting the net a lot more with his shot."
While he's played all season with Shawn McEachern, Yashin has had Marian Hossa on his wing for the last two games. At various times, captain Daniel Alfredsson and winger Andreas Dackell have also made stops there.
"I think whenever you're on the ice, you want to be out there making the difference," said Yashin.
Lately, Yashin has been a big difference, but he knows he has to keep
it up down the stretch.
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