Zholtok hurt by slump? Wrong
By DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun
You might think that a guy like Sergei Zholtok would be miserable
But you'd be completely wrong.
You might think that a guy who came to training camp three months
ago with a very good shot at winning the job as second line centre, a guy
that now toils on the fourth line when he toils at all, would be in danger
of skating over his lower lip.
But you'd be completely wrong.
You might think that a guy who hasn't scored in 22 games, a guy
who through 29 games still has the same number of goals (three) as tough
guy Phil Crowe had in nine before he was shipped off to the minors, a guy
who got this far in his hockey life because of his prowess with a puck
... you might think Zholtok would be ready to scream.
Okay, so you'd be batting .333.
"You cheeeaattt!," Zholtok shrieked at friend Alexei Yashin during
yesterday's Senators practice when Yashin finished ahead of him in a race
that rewarded winners with an early shower. Zholtok, however, was not serious
with his accusation. On the contrary, he was, and is, just having fun.
"He gets more ice time, he needs the extra rest," Zholtok said
in making an excuse for his loss to Yashin. "I'm a team player."
Excuses aside, Zholtok, who scored 12 goals in 57 games with
Ottawa last season and would have had 20 if not for the goal posts continually
jumping in his way, is the last player with any sort of offensive talents
on the team to still have a big black cat crossing his path to the net.
Radek Bonk ended his 19-game drought with an empty-net goal two weeks ago.
Shawn McEachern snapped out of his 12-game hiatus from the scoresheet last
week. Randy Cunneyworth ended his stretch of 23 games without a goal by
sliding home an empty-netter Saturday night.
Zholtok's slide began Oct. 17, and while it is the longest he
has ever gone between goals, he has, in a unique sort of way, learned to
live with the slump. He has managed to smile through his troubles.
"It was frustrating at first, but these things happen," the just-turned
25-year old Latvian said of his slump. "I think it makes you a stronger
player, a stronger person. In the long run, it is probably the best thing
that could happen."
"I have to look at things more positively," he said. "Any player
can handle scoring goals and playing well. It's easy and it's always fun.
"But it's not always fun when you're not playing so well so you've
got to find ways to get out of the slump, find how to get better in other
ways. If I'm not scoring, I understand I have to do a good job defensively
to stay in the league. I have to be perfect on defence.
"But the slump has helped me a lot because, honestly, I've gotten
stronger offensively, too. I know I'm not scoring, everybody knows I'm
not scoring, but because things are not going well, I have to work harder.
I have to shoot an extra 50 or 100 pucks after every practice, I have to
watch more film and look for little ways of finding the openings, beating
a goalie ... sometimes I see that I'm holding on to the puck too long,
or that I have to look around instead of forcing things.
"If I keep working on all these things, in five or six months
they will be habit. The best thing people can do is find the good things
when things are going bad."
The Senators don't expect Zholtok to ever be a prolific scorer
in the NHL, but he is a player they would look to for 20-30 goals. Right
now, he is on pace for about eight.
"Last year, down the stretch, he played with great desperation,"
assistant coach Perry Pearn said. "He was winning the one-on-one battles.
"He needs to get closer to that level of desperation."
Zholtok correctly points out that other NHLers have struggled
as well this season. The New York Rangers Alexei Kovalev, who he considers
perhaps the most "offensively gifted player in the world" was off to a
horrific start and even now only has seven goals through 31 games.
"Maybe three or four guys will have 100 points this year, that's
it. The same with 50 goals," he said. "Coaches are getting smarter, goalies
are getting better. Players like (Brian) Skrudland and (Mike) Keane are
getting rich contracts to be checkers. It's not so easy to score goals
any more. Every year it's tougher and tougher.
"But I still have to contribute. I have to work hard. If I'm
not scoring I can't let it bother me on the ice. I have to find other ways
to have fun ... it's a lot more fun now with the team winning .... and
I have to figure out ways to get out of the slump. That can be fun, too."
Страничка Сергея Жолтка на сайте
"Звёзды с Востока"
18 ноября. Honoring Zholtok's memory, one year after
his death - St. Paul Pioneer Press
11 ноября. Ex-Wild teammate returns home, recalls
Zholtok's death in Belarus // St. Paul Pioneer Press
11 ноября. Former Wild teammates Darby Hendrickson
and Sergei Zholtok had a tragic reunion in Latvia // Minneapolis Star
5 ноября. Zholtok's death has really hit home
// Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin
5 ноября. Сергей Жолток умер во время матча. Врачи
более часа боролись за его жизнь в раздевалке, но сердце хоккеиста не выдержало
// "Советский Спорт"
5 ноября. Вожак Латвии // "Спорт-Экспресс"
5 ноября. Сергей Жолток - смерть за 5 минут до конца
матча // "Спорт-Экспресс"