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7 ноября 2003 года
Better stick gives Zhitnik that old flick - Buffalo News


You would think that, for a professional hockey player, finding a comfortable, dependable stick would be as easy as a game of one-man hide-and-seek. You would think, given all the varieties on the market, given that manufacturers are eager and able to custom-fit the game's elite, a player would never go wanting for a piece of lumber or graphite or composite matter that gives him peace of mind.

The search ended just this summer for Alexei Zhitnik, veteran defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres. Time invested? About five years.

Zhitnik has been like a mad inventor since his old stick brand went off the market and reappeared with a penchant for snapping midshaft. He tried a graphite-fortified stick with a wooden blade. He tested a graphite-shafted stick with an inserted graphite blade. He dabbled with a one-piece composite stick. He might have experimented with a plastic stick from a toy set if they made one long enough.

The only consistency Zhitnik found was in the flight path of his slap shot, which tended to either shave more heads than the Army or sail well left of the net. He nailed Vaclav Varada in the ear a few seasons back, a shot Zhitnik insists was deflected. Right. Or perhaps fired from a grassy knoll.

His teammates never would broach the subject with Zhitnik, even lightheartedly, because that would have equated to piling on. The fans already were letting him know, and with great regularity, that he had a shot better suited to jai alai.

"That's not the kind of thing you want to joke about," winger J.P. Dumont said. "A stick is a huge thing. We know there was no way he was doing that on purpose."

The longer it went on, the more apprehensive Zhitnik became. Missing the net is one thing. Putting somebody in the morgue is another. Zhitnik would obsess over every shot, concentrate on all facets of the act instead of relying upon instinct. He was afraid, he admits, that one of these days he was going to kill somebody.

"Sometimes," he said, "I would have to pay too much attention to do what I had to do."

But the results were the same. Whenever Zhitnik let it fly, teammates sought shelter or, at the least, prepared to duck.

"It's always kind of scary when you go in front of the net," Dumont said. "You never know what's going to happen. You can have a cross-check or you can have the puck. Last year, (his shot) was going wide and sometimes really high, so you don't do as good a job standing in front of the net because you don't know where the puck is going to go."

It was over the summer that Zhitnik found the stick of his dreams. He's using a Sher-Wood Eclipse with a 95 flex shaft, which is far less stiff than the Easton Synergy 110 he was using a few years back. The blade on this Sher-Wood has more of a toe curve, which, explains Sabres head equipment manager Rip Simonick, promotes better control.

"It's a big difference, even with passes and stickhandling," Zhitnik said. "Now I know when I want to do something eight times out of 10 it's going to go my way. It's not 50-50."

The change has been dramatic. Zhitnik, by design, picked the upper corner against Toronto last week to score his first goal of the season. In that same game, it was the rebound of his shot from the point that Miroslav Satan poked in for a goal. Zhitnik had four shots on net in Wednesday's 7-4 loss to Atlanta. He's once again become a viable part of the offense even if his reputation still clings to him like a 2-year-old in a crowd.

"Everybody notices the one shot that misses, not the six or seven that are hitting the net," coach Lindy Ruff said. "He's done a real good job of keeping his shot down and putting it in places where there will be a rebound. It's typically from the foot to 2-foot range (in height)."

Zhitnik might never again be the 15-goal scorer he was in 1997-98. But he could get back to scoring seven or eight a season, which was routine production before the stick odyssey began. And merely by being on target he'll produce more goals for his teammates, who once again can charge the net instead of advancing with trepidation.

"I think right now he's got a good stick," Dumont said. "Hopefully, he's not going to change it."

Страничка Алексея Житника на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


21 декабря. Алексей Житник: "Выбрал Ак Барс, потому что не люблю команды, претендующие на вторые роли" // "Спорт-Экспресс"

9 декабря. “Барсы” добавляют в свои ряды Алексея Житника. 

22 сентября. Оригинальный Житник. Знаменитый ветеран во время локаута будет играть в необычной лиге с упрощенными правилами // "Советский Спорт"

1 июля. Житник будет искать счастья на рынке свободных агентов. 

16 марта. Житник пропустит все оставшиеся матчи сезона. 

9 марта. Алексей Житник: "Меня продают уже два года" - Спорт-Экспресс. 

2 марта. This time, Zhitnik hopes trade winds don't blow him away - Buffalonews.com

4 февраля. Zhitnik deserves high praise - buffalonews.com


"ЗВЁЗДЫ С ВОСТОКА" @ c 1997 года