Kanata, Ontario -- John Tortorella wasn’t happy with Ruslan Fedotenko’s game toward the end of the regular season -- the coach sat the veteran winger down for two games March 21 and 23. But Fedotenko has responded since the playoffs began.
This isn’t the first time the 33-year-old has turned it on in the postseason, either. After all, he tallied twice in Game 7 to help Tortorella's Tampa Bay Lightning secure the Stanley Cup Championship in 2004.
“To me, it’s a mental thing,” Tortorella said. “I thought he was playing brutal towards the end of the year. He’s just found his way here, to ramp his game up.”
Fedotenko’s hard-nosed, grinding play has been the perfect complement to the series’ breakout star Brian Boyle, who has recorded a goal in each of the first three games of the series. The trio of Fedotenko, Boyle and Brandon Prust has been as effective line as any for the Blueshirts – neutralizing the Senators top line of Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and, most-recently, Colin Greening while adding offense as well.
Fedotenko, who sports on his back a tattoo for each of the two Stanley Cups he has won in his 10-year career, clearly has a flourish for the playoffs and has raised his game accordingly.
“You don’t want to dog it during the [regular] season,” he said. “You just try to elevate your game or play better, with that determination during the playoffs, ride that wave and perform the best you can do.”
Fedotenko has not always thrived in the postseason -- he said he was scratched by Tortorella in 2007 -- but he does feel that the high-intensity, tight-checking and bruising tone of the playoffs is tailored to his game.
“I don’t want to say, 'Hey, yeah I’m the playoff guy' and all that stuff, no, but it suits my style -- more physical, quicker, grinder, go hard to the net. ... I think that suits my game a little bit better in the playoffs.”
Fedotenko’s relationship with Tortorella, which dates back to 2002, also helps. He has a good idea of what to expect.
“I think it helps for me right now to understand what he demanded, what it takes to win and accomplish our goals,” he said. “I feel pretty lucky in the early career stages to be coached by great [coaches]. They channeled me the way I should be to be successful in this league and I feel like it’s been great so far.”
It hasn’t been without “battles,” Fedotenko said. But even those have helped to elicit his best.
After being scratched three weeks ago, Fedotenko’s game has improved greatly. He has veered from a conservative, defensive-minded approach to re-establish a strong offensive presence.
“I think it’s definitely helped,” he said. “Since then I feel I’ve played much better.”