Monday, April 03, 2000

Carolina hopes Tanabe will be clone of Coffey

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        David Tanabe's supporters would like to see the 19-year-old defenseman recalled by the Carolina Hurricanes. But don't ask Cyclones fans who've suddenly come to regard the rookie as one of the team's top young players.

        The NHL parent Hurricanes sent Tanabe to the Cyclones in February for him to get more ice time. It's safe to say he's made the most of it.

        “It makes sense for me to come down here and get maybe 25 minutes a game as opposed to eight or nine (with Carolina),” Tanabe said. “One of the big things for me is Carolina wants me to be an offensive defenseman, and that's something I can work on here in Cincinnati.”

        The Wisconsin product showcased his offensive skill in Thursday's 3-0 defeat of Cleveland in which he helped on all three goals. The performance gave him 10 points — all assists — in 13 games. He got the final assist when he skated down the right side away from all but one Cleveland defender, faked inside before dropping a pass in the slot for Byron Ritchie. The textbook 2-on-1 effort resulted in a Ritchie one-timer, and gave those at Firstar Center a sampling of what Tanabe has picked up in his 29 NHL games as a teammate of future Hall of Famer Paul Coffey.

        “One thing I've learned from him is transitioning the puck from the defensive zone to offense, and getting the puck to where it needs to be,” Tanabe said. “It's important to get the puck to forwards who are moving quickly.”

        Cyclones coach Ron Smith said he can see a little Coffey, known as a great skater among other talents, in Tanabe.

        “David's a top-level skater,” Smith said. “Coffey's other two strengths are great passing and getting the puck through traffic to get it on net. Only time will tell if David can do those things. But right now with him, there are all sorts of possibilities.”

        Tanabe said Coffey has helped him become effective on the power play — where the rookie has scored all three of his NHL goals — but added that the star defenseman has helped with off-ice issues.

        “He's taught me about my place in the locker room,” Tanabe said. “What to say, when to say it, when not to say things. He's also showed me a great work ethic.”

        Tanabe said he'll enjoy a post-season run with the streaking Cyclones.

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