Butsayev, Wolves Grab Series Lead
Spellman, Mike, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Mike Spellman Daily Herald Sports Writer
After flying the Chicago-to-Atlanta route more than a lot of Delta pilots over the last month, Wolves center Yuri Butsayev is starting to feel like one of his country's most beloved heroes.
"You know the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin? My first name is Yuri and now I feel I have something in common with him," said Butsayev, who has shuttled between the Wolves and their NHL affiliate the Atlanta Thrashers nine times since March 19.
On Wednesday, Butsayev finally looked as if he found a home as he scored twice to lead the Wolves to a 2-1 victory over Grand Rapids in front of an announced crowd of 2,422 at the Allstate Arena.
The victory puts the Wolves up 2-1 in the best-of-five quarterfinals and sets up a possible series-clinching game Friday at 7 p.m. at home.
For the second straight game, if you blinked you missed the Wolves' first goal. Monday in Grand Rapids it was J.P. Vigier lighting the lamp just 58 seconds in as the Wolves went on to an easy 5-1 victory.
It was Butsayev's turn Wednesday - on a play set up by a determined effort by Dan Snyder. With a Griffins defender serving as his pilot fish, Snyder powered his way through the Grand Rapids zone and pushed a pass from the side of the net to Vigier out front.
The Wolves' only all-star took a whack at it, but Griffins goalie Martin Prusek blocked the puck with his chest. The rebound, however, went right to Butsayev, who buried it to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead at the 1:28 mark.
That goal highlighted the built-in advantage of having a struggling NHL affiliate (Atlanta Thrashers). Butsayev, Vigier and Snyder all were assigned to the Wolves on Monday after spending time late in the season with the Thrashers, who finished the regular season without a playoff bid for the third straight year. …