Fedorov ready to become No. 1 center

Updated: August 21, 2003, 3:41 AM ET
Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Sergei Fedorov wanted a more significant role. The Anaheim Mighty Ducks needed a go-to guy.

Fedorov and his new team seem a perfect match.

The star from Russia had played in the shadow of Steve Yzerman during 13 years in Detroit, where he had spent his entire NHL career. Fedorov also believed he would be more effective if he got more playing time than the 20 minutes, 41 seconds he averaged under Red Wings coach Dave Lewis last season.

"I wanted more responsibility, more ice time, which I think will come with being the No. 1 center here," Fedorov said Wednesday at a news conference.

Coach Mike Babcock plans to give plenty of playing time to Fedorov, the league's MVP in 1993-94 when he averaged around 28 minutes a game for the Red Wings.

"We feel Sergei is a dominant player in the league, a guy who wants to be the go-to guy on this team," Babcock said. "We're going to give him every opportunity to be that, and challenge him."

Babcock, who guided the Ducks to the Stanley Cup finals as a rookie NHL coach last season, plans to make good use of Fedorov's versatility.

"He's a great skater, has got good size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds), is a good transition player, can play both ends of the rink," Babcock said. "He can play on the power play, on the point, can penalty kill, play regular shift, and can be out there in the last minute defensively or the last minute offensively.

"So that makes you a pretty special player and a guy that should be on the ice."

Fedorov, who signed a five-year, $40 million contract with Anaheim, has 400 goals and 554 assists in his NHL career. He helped the Red Wins win the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998 and 2002.

A six-time All-Star, he had 36 goals and 47 assists for a team-leading 83 points last season with Detroit.

He said he was happy when he learned his agent had struck a deal with Ducks general manager Bryan Murray, who was Fedorov's coach when the Russian came into the league with Detroit in 1990.

"I was visiting Moscow in my homeland when I learned I was going to the Mighty Ducks, and I couldn't wait to get here and be part of the organization," Fedorov said. "I'm really excited to be playing for Brian, and I'm excited to be playing for a team that went to the Stanley Cup finals."

Fedorov and the Red Wings, who were the defending Cup champions, were swept by the upstart Ducks in the opening round of the playoffs last season.

He said that helped make coming to Anaheim an easy decision after he didn't get the contract he wanted in Detroit.

"Obviously, from the performance last year by this team, I watched the second round against the Dallas Stars, and I knew this team would have a chance to go beyond the second and third round," Fedorov said. "It's a young team, very determined."

The 33-year-old center smiled and added, "I think I still have a few miles left in my legs."

He will provide star power to a team that lost its only established star when Paul Kariya signed with Colorado. Babcock said he was shocked to learn Kariya was leaving, so he was particularly happy to learn, slightly more than two weeks later, that Federov would be joining the Ducks.

"I was playing in a University of Lethbridge golf tournament when I found out we got him. I was a pretty excited guy, and we birdied the next couple of holes," Babcock said, grinning and quickly clarifying his golf story by pointing out that it was his team -- not him -- that birdied the next two holes.

"Let's not get carried away," he said, noting that he's no threat to join the PGA Tour.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press