Fedotenko flourishes in Penguins' resurgence

| Thursday, April 9, 2009

There's something about this time of year and these types of games that get left wing Ruslan Fedotenko going.

"I like to play in tight games," Fedotenko said. "When the pressure is on, that's kind of my style of game."

Fedotenko has recorded eight points - including three goals - and a plus-8 rating in the past five games. His surge has aided the Penguins in securing a playoff spot. Fedotenko scored the game's first goal and recorded an assist Tuesday night in a 6-4 playoff-clinching victory over Tampa Bay.

"I think he's hopefully heating up, which is good," general manager Ray Shero said.

If past seasons are any indication, Fedotenko is rounding into form. He's known as a guy who plays big in big games.

Fedotenko has the NHL's ultimate prize to prove it.

Fedotenko helped the Tampa Bay Lightning win a Stanley Cup in 2004. He scored both goals in a 2-1 victory in Game 7. He also scored a critical first goal in a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final that year.

Fedotenko thrives in those pressure-filled situations.

"I think you always feel the pressure, but you know how to deal with that," he said. "You try to simplify, go to the roots of the way you play. In my case, go hard to the net, create some chances, give-and-go, not necessarily just trying to toe-drag. That's not my game.

In those situations, just go simple, go to the net and score big goals."

Fedotenko makes it sound simple. He's made it look easy in the past, too. Now, he'll have a chance to make some big plays with the Penguins this postseason.

Fedotenko's clutch play is a big reason Shero signed him to a one-year deal this past July. He'll certainly be a go-to guy throughout the Penguins' playoff run.

"Right now, he's kind of in the zone, which is great," center Jordan Staal said. "There's no better timing than right now. Probably he felt that the team really needed him right now and we did, and he's stepping up for us."

There was a time not too long ago when Fedotenko wasn't particularly in playoff form. Fedotenko had a breakout game against the New York Rangers on March 28 when he recorded a goal and two assists. In the nine games prior, though, he failed to record a point.

Shero admittedly grew a bit concerned during that stretch, but New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow reassured Shero that Fedotenko - who played for the Islanders last season - would rediscover his game.

"I said, 'He's struggling' and (Snow) said, 'Don't worry. You make the playoffs, he's gonna be good in the playoffs,'" Shero said.

Fedotenko credits his recent success mostly to the confidence he has in his game. Shero said his play has improved because "he's much more involved in the play, more physical and shooting the puck when he has the opportunity."

Fedotenko is returning to form after he missed five weeks from Jan. 6 to Feb. 14 with a broken right hand, which was a result of a fight with Atlanta's Colby Armstrong.

"When you have confidence, when people believe in you, people give you chances to see what you can do, you thrive on that and that's how I feel," Fedotenko said. "I feel I was put in a good situation and I play well when they depend on me. I feel like I always come up strong."

Fedotenko isn't a guy who is going to score a ton of goals. He has averaged 17.4 per season throughout his eight-year career. He averages 34.5 points per year with a career-high 41 points and 26 goals in 2005-06.

This season, Fedotenko has 16 goals and 21 assists. Perhaps more telling is his plus-17 rating, second on the team to only defenseman Rob Scuderi's plus-19. Fedotenko also scored three game-winning goals this season.

There could be more of those to come if his past success is any indication.

"I hope they look to me as a big part of the team, but time will show," Fedotenko said.

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