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сентября 2003 года
All Signs Pointing Up for Zubrus - The Washington Post
By Jason La Canfora
Every September Dainius Zubrus hears the same thing. This will be the season the power forward blossoms into a steady scoring threat and maximizes his immense potential. Finally, he will put all of his physical tools -- size, strength, speed, aggressiveness, defensive awareness -- together for an entire season and become the impact player so many believe he can be.
Zubrus, 25, enters his eighth NHL season and fourth with the Washington Capitals again carrying those lofty expectations.
"If not now, then when, really?" Zubrus said. "It has to be now. I have played almost 500 games now  and it is my eighth year and I am in a very good situation here. I just have to take advantage of that. Everything depends on me right now."
All signs point to Zubrus's emergence. He is healthy after years of being bothered by concussions and a lingering hand injury. He has been assigned a major role on one of the top two lines, manning the power play and killing penalties. After several seasons of auditioning for new coaches and meeting new teammates, Zubrus is comfortably settled and aims to build off his strong finish to last season.
Zubrus has scored four goals in three preseason games -- tied for the NHL lead entering play last night -- and assisted on two others. His chiseled 6-foot-4, 231-pound frame is being channeled to attract attention in front of the opposition's net and punish defensemen in the corners, and Zubrus's ability to play all three forward positions makes him a key cog for the Capitals.
"He is a very valuable player for us," General Manager George McPhee said. "He does so many things for us. He's very good playing five-on-five, he's a very good penalty killer, he can play on the power play, and he brings great pace to the game because he can skate and has great size.
"So he doesn't have to be an offensive player to be effective for us, but we think he's capable of that, too. Hopefully, this is the year when he breaks through and has a more productive year than any in the past. The sky is the limit with him."
Zubrus, who was acquired from Montreal at the 2001 trade deadline, had his best season in 2001-02, posting 17 goals and 43 points in 71 games, but he failed to maintain that pace last season. He missed training camp because of a contract impasse, needed half of the season to regain his form and finished with 13 goals and 35 points.
This is just the second time in Zubrus's career that he has played for the same coach to start consecutive seasons. In three seasons with Philadelphia, Zubrus was coached by Terry Murray, Wayne Cashman and Roger Neilson; in two-plus seasons in Montreal he played for Alain Vigneault and Michel Therrien; Ron Wilson and Bruce Cassidy have coached Zubrus in Washington.
"In my seven years I played for seven different coaches," Zubrus said, "and at my age you are sort of always starting from scratch and each coach wants to see where he can find a spot for you and wants you to try different things. . . . But I want to be the kind of player who is able to play in every situation, so I guess that was maybe a good thing, too."
Maintaining his health will also serve Zubrus well. He has never played more than 73 games in a season and missed 17 games last season because of injuries. Staying in the lineup will only increase Zubrus's output, and he expects to surpass goals for the first time in his career.
"I know that 17 goals is not the best I can do," Zubrus said. "I just want to keep building on the second half of last year. What the exact number [of goals] will be, I don't know, but I just know that I can make a difference in every game."
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
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