Saturday, February 14, 1998
Fedorov Russian to get back to form
He's skated with his dad.
And then he skated with Alexei Yashin and something special happened.
Sergei Fedorov, the spry who came in from the cold, made it look wonderful.
Ninety seconds into his first game in eight months, he burst behind a Kazakhstani defenceman and, as only he can, appeared to accelerate without moving his feet.
He deked goaltender Vitaly Yeremeyev to the ground and then flipped the puck high into the net off the backhand.
Fedorov, who has been idled since June as an unsigned free agent whose rights are owned by the Detroit Red Wings, played on a line with Yashin and Andrei Kovalenko and there was magic to be had.
Fedorov had three breakaways before the first period was out, his second one, hauling a Kazakhstani defender like a U-Haul, created a loose puck and resulted in Yashin's first of two goals on the night.
"I was ready for this, pumped up," said Fedorov. "I was nervous before the game and then that opportunity came my way and I just took off. I made a move and the goaltender and the defenceman tried to defend it. There's no question (the goal) helped me out. I needed that to help out my confidence."
Fedorov worked out for the month of November, skating in Florida, mostly by himself. He took the month of December off before getting back on blades in January, often under the direction of his father.
Fedorov was spectacular and rarely has Yashin been so inspired. Yashin's second goal was what he is all about. With Kazakhstani defenceman Andrey Savenkov all over his back, he pulled the puck to his backhand, tucking it behind Yeremeyev.
"(Fedorov)'s playing on the right line," he joked. "You could see that he was very hungry playing tonight, he's been out for such a long time. He's a great player. He's got that hungry feeling back and I was pleased to play with him. Why don't you do what you can do to get this guy to play in Ottawa?"
Yeah, we wish.
The Yashin line was a raging force at both ends of the ice. In fact, the entire Russian team looked very interested in playing a complete game against a plucky Kazakhstani team which had the crowd at Aqua Wing behind it.
That willingness to work is an indication of a new spirit on this Russian team which looks like it has put the disappointment and dissension of the World Cup behind it.
"It's fun to be on this team," Yashin said. "We have a lot of great guys in the dressing room. We're trying to protect and support each other. That's the way Russian hockey is played.
"I don't want to say our team is the best, but we're looking for the gold."
It was suggested to Yurzinov that, following Fedorov's example, it might be in his interest to have more players without contracts.
"I'm a little disappointed many of our players didn't have contracts with Russian clubs," he said. "I haven't seen him play for a long time alive on the ice, but once again I have to say I'm absolutely sure he's an outstanding player.
"Secondly, I have to say he's a very important player for creating team spirit for our team."
"I don't know what I do to bring the team together," said Fedorov. "Everybody does something. I speak my mind when there's a point that has to be made to everybody. I've never played in the Olympics before, but I've played some high levels of competition. I've got experience and I'm willing to talk about it if anybody asks me about a situation on or off the ice."
Not even the fact Russian captain Pavel Bure, who had two goals, had to leave the game with a minor calf bruise (it's not expected to keep him out) could dull the shine of Fedorov's polished effort and the promise of things to come.
"This hasn't been the best time for me, this period of my contract," Fedorov said. "And it's not the end of this period. But there will be the day when I can play in the NHL again.
"I missed the game of hockey for a while."