Penguins beat Toronto; Newcomer Fedotenko provides experience
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jaime Sifers, right, gets a high stick from the Penguins' Ruslan Fedotenko during third period preseason NHL action yesterday in Toronto. Fedotenko received a penalty on the play.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, right, scores past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala during third-period NHL preseason hockey game action yesterday in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Nathan Denette)
Penguins players celebrate a goal by Mark Eaton as Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Pavel Kubina, right, skates by during second period preseason hockey action yesterday in Toronto.
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TORONTO -- Ruslan Fedotenko has experienced some remarkable things during his 29-plus years.
Being part of the Penguins' 5-4 exhibition victory over Toronto at the Air Canada Centre last night doesn't qualify, even though his role was upgraded midway through the game, but several other events do.
Scoring both of Tampa Bay's goals during its 2-1 victory in Game 7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final is one, for starters.
Still, for all that Fedotenko has been a part of on the ice, including representing Ukraine in the 2006 Olympics, one of the most critical periods in his life occurred years before he began playing hockey at a high level.
And Fedotenko wasn't even aware of it.
It was the spring of 1986, and he and his family were living in the suburbs of Kiev. They were pretty much oblivious to one of the most disastrous man-made catastrophes of the 20th century -- the nuclear accident at Chernobyl -- even though it was playing out less than 100 miles away.
"It was so secret," Fedotenko said. "People in the U.S. and other countries knew before we did.
"The media was told not to tell anybody anything. We didn't know [about the accident] at all for a while.
"Firefighters and everybody else, they didn't know what they were dealing with. That's why there were so many casualties.
"People died because they weren't prepared to work [in a radioactive setting]."
Kiev was in the path of some of the tainted clouds that drifted from Chernobyl and, although there's no firm evidence that any of his family members were directly affected by the fallout, Fedotenko believes at least one family friend might have been.
"He was in the Army at the time and went and worked there," Fedotenko said. "He had a couple of health issues, but he's still with us.
"It's not like he has a particular disease or anything else. It could be because of Chernobyl, but nobody could say for sure."
Fedotenko said he may have one side-effect from his exposure to the aftermath of the accident.
"I [can't] grow a playoff beard," he said, laughing.
"I'm trying to stay young, look young. Maybe that's the side effects of Chernobyl for me."
His difficulty growing facial hair didn't matter last season because Fedotenko played for the New York Islanders, who didn't qualify for the postseason. He doesn't expect to have next spring off, however, which is part of the reason he signed with the Penguins when he became an unrestricted free agent in July.
"It's a great, great team, a great young team," he said. "I had a couple of options, but I felt I could bring a little experience in the playoffs to this team and help it win the cup.
"That's everyone's dream, to win the Cup. I've been fortunate to already win one, but you never want to stop with that. You always want to win another one."
Management has not committed to where Fedotenko will be used when the Penguins open the regular season against Ottawa in Sweden, a week from today, but until the second half of the game last night -- when he switched places with Pascal Dupuis, moving onto the No. 1 line with Sidney Crosby and Miroslav Satan -- most indications had been that he'd be on the third line with Max Talbot and Matt Cooke.
"A guy like him can move up and down the lineup and help in many different areas," general manager Ray Shero said. "We'll see how not only he does but how some other guys do, what the fit is."
NOTES -- Cooke scored the winning goal on a rebound with 95 seconds left in regulation. Janne Pesonen, Mark Eaton, Kris Letang and Crosby also scored for the Penguins (3-1), while ex-Penguin Dominic Moore, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle scored Toronto's goals against Marc-Andre Fleury. ... Defenseman Hal Gill missed the final two-plus periods with a bruised knee, but Penguins officials said his injury does not appear to be serious. ... Forward Tyler Kennedy signed a two-year contract extension that will pay him $600,000 in 2009-10 and $850,000 in 2010-11. ... Right winger Petr Sykora was held out of the game because of illness. ... The Penguins plan to make roster cuts before leaving for Stockholm today.
First Published September 27, 2008 12:38 am