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Lightning

Fedotenko proves his value

By JOHN ROMANO
Published May 28, 2004

Main story
Photo gallery
Gary Shelton: What else did you expect?
John Romano: Fedotenko proves his value
Flames take out frustrations
Game 2: period by period
Goalie comparison
Hockey is the best medicine
Lecavalier goes in with a bang
Lecavalier play simply fit for the Great One
Meet the man who keeps them on edge
Richards' 2003 is now net gain
Simon fitting in with Flames
Slapshots
Soundbites
Lightning 4, Flames 1Series tied 1-1
(56k | High-Speed)

STANLEY CUP FINALS AT A GLANCE:
Click on each score for the main story from each game
Best-of-7
(Lightning wins series 4-3)
Tuesday [5/25]: Calgary 4, Tampa Bay 1
Thursday [5/27]: Tampa Bay 4, Calgary 1
Saturday [5/29]: Calgary 3, Tampa Bay 0
Monday [5/31]: Tampa Bay 1, Calgary 0

TAMPA - The discussion has been moved from the future.

The test no longer is to be graded over the long term.

You already have all the evidence needed in the case of Ruslan Fedotenko, and the ruling is plain. If he never scores another goal - and it appears he has many in his future - the trade for Fedotenko has been worth it.

Really, what else is there to determine?

I mean, other than why Philadelphia general manager Bobby Clarke didn't get more in return. Because, really, this is an acquisition that has danced beyond skepticism and sashayed past suspicion.

Fedotenko scored again Thursday night. If you're counting, and it's no longer simple math, it was Fedotenko's 10th goal in 18 playoff games. He has scored early, and he has scored late. He has scored against the Islanders, the Canadiens, the Flyers and, now, the Flames.

He has scored more than Vinny Lecavalier and more than Martin St. Louis. More than Brad Richards and more than Fredrik Modin. Pretty much, he has scored more than anyone could have rightfully expected.

And, perhaps, no goal has been as important as the rebound he put in the net in Game 2.

If there is one thing we have learned of the Flames in this postseason, it is that they do not give up a lead easily. Twelve times they have scored the first goal in a game, and 11 times they have won.

With a blowout victory in Game 1, Calgary could have put the Lightning in dire shape with an early goal Thursday night. Instead, Fedotenko stood his ground in front of the net after a blocked shot and took two swipes at the puck before flipping it past Miikka Kiprusoff for the goal.

For the first time, the Lightning had control. And, by the end of the evening, the series was back in doubt.

"He's found his game," St. Louis said. "He was kind of up and down at the start of the year, but he's really gotten consistent the last few months. He goes places where he knows the puck is going to end up, and you can see it in all the scoring chances he's had."

After spending two long seasons under a microscope, Fedotenko has chosen this month to step into the spotlight. Were the playoffs an 82-game regular season, he would be on pace for 46 goals.

Now maybe you think this talk is premature. That the only way to accurately grade a blockbuster trade is with years stacked behind it.

In most cases, this would be true. But in this instance, the value already has been weighed and measured. And it's not even close.

The Lightning is three victories from winning the Stanley Cup, and that position would not have been possible without the production of Fedotenko.

If he does nothing else, this will have been enough.

"It's not about personal things anymore. At this time of the year, it's about the team," Fedotenko said.

"Trades are part of the business. It doesn't mean a team doesn't want you, it just means they're looking for something else. It's nothing personal."

Even so, this is Fedotenko's hour. And, if he were so inclined, he might share it with general manager Jay Feaster.

Nothing Feaster has done in the past two years has been more scrutinized or criticized than giving up the No. 4 pick in the 2002 draft for Fedotenko.

At the time, it was suggested he panicked. It was theorized he was pinching pennies. Mostly, it was presumed Feaster was outwitted by Clarke.

"When you're in the position of manager of the club, you need to have confidence in your decisions," Feaster said. "You can't worry about what the reaction is going to be everywhere else. If you did, you'd never do anything. You'd never pull the trigger.

"Feds was a player I knew. A player I had watched a long time, and I felt I understood him and had some insight into him because of Bill Barber."

Barber, now the Lightning's director of player personnel, was Fedotenko's head coach with the Flyers for part of two seasons. He understood Fedotenko's potential and surmised he would fit perfectly with coach John Tortorella's system.

The transition has not been perfect. Though the Lightning also picked up Brad Lukowich with a draft pick acquired in the trade, there have been legitimate questions about Fedotenko's development.

He fell below expectations with 19 goals in his first season. He dropped a little further this season and was taken off the first two lines in December.

Gradually, he has worked himself back into Tortorella's good graces. His defensive skills made him an asset on the Lecavalier-St. Louis line, and now his offensive talents are beginning to shine.

If the Flyers had any doubt about what they gave up, Fedotenko showed them with six goals in the Eastern Conference final.

The trade no longer is a matter of debate.

The Lightning, after all, already has scored.

[Last modified May 28, 2004, 01:15:51]


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