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Tyutin Looks to Improve Game, Stick with Blueshirts

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

Since being drafted by the Rangers in the second round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Fedor Tyutin has been regarded as the organization's top blueline prospect. On Saturday, New York and its fans caught a glimpse of the highly-touted defenseman as he made his NHL debut in Philadelphia.

"It was very exciting ... but I'm not so happy about the final score, though," said Tyutin following New York's 6-2 loss to the Flyers.

On a personal level, the game was a major test for Tyutin, who not only made his debut in the opposing arena of one of New York's most fierce rivals, but the action was his first since spraining knee ligaments on January 8 while playing with the Hartford Wolf Pack, New York's American Hockey League affiliate.

"When he's got the puck, he plays very well," Rangers President, General Manager and Head Coach Glen Sather noted after the game in Philadelphia. "He handles it well and he is composed. He's a talented kid. He has some aspects to learn about his own end, but he did very well for his first game, and I knew this wouldn't be an easy game for him to play in."

With Greg de Vries sidelined with the flu and Vladimir Malakhov out with a wrist injury, the 20-year old also suited up for Monday's game vs. Ottawa - his Madison Square Garden debut - and logged over 16 minutes of valuable ice time while paired on the blueline with Tom Poti.

"I feel pretty good," he said after his first game in the Big Apple. "I gained confidence. I can play at this level and I just went out there today and gained more confidence than in my first game. I know how I feel and I know I can help the team. I feel like I can help the team."

"For him to play so steady is excellent, and you can tell by the way he plays the game that he's only going to get better," said 11-time All-Star defenseman Brian Leetch.

"Tyutin looks like he's going to be a tremendous hockey player," added Rangers captain Mark Messier. "He plays with poise, he moves the puck. It's pretty encouraging."

Following a season spent in his native Russia, including his integral role on Russia's second consecutive World Junior Championship gold medal-winning club, this season - his first in the American Hockey League - has been a very valuable one for Tyutin and he finds it difficult to credit anyone in particular for his adjustment to professional hockey and life in North America. Instead, he views each opportunity to learn from his teammates and coaches as a unique one.

"It's tough to name one person who has influenced me the most because it's been everyone - my coaches and teammates in Hartford and New York," the Izhevsk, Russia native said. "Everybody has given me little things to try to pick up on and it's been helpful to me. The style of hockey and life in general is different than my time in Russia and in junior hockey in Canada, but I've learned a lot here."

At 29-16-8-1, Hartford sits atop the AHL's Atlantic Division, a spot they have occupied for most of the season. Tyutin has played a major role in the success of the Wolf Pack and has enjoyed his time there thus far.

"It's a good, young team (in Hartford)," said Tyutin, who was selected to participate in his first AHL All-Star Game but was unable to play due to the knee injury. "Everyone has really worked hard to play well and do the right things to be successful. Our goaltending has been great and has given us a chance to win each game. It's been fun."

While his time in the AHL has been a successful learning experience for the mobile blueliner, his goal remains the same - a career in the NHL. So, what will it take for him to stick in the bigs?

"I think I just need to play the way I know how to play," Tyutin said. "If I do that, the coaches will gain confidence in me and I will, in turn, gain confidence from them."
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