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Sergei Fedorov Is Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame

Perhaps the greatest player of Russian descent ever to play in the NHL, Sergei Fedorov spent but a short time at the end of his Hall of Fame career in Washington, but it was memorable.

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The 1989 NHL entry draft was a banner year for players of Russian descent.; you could almost build a credible all-star team out of the 15 players selected.

At right wing was Pavel Bure, who scored 437 goals in a 702-game NHL career cut short by injuries. On defense there was Vladimir Malakhov, who appeared in more than 700 NHL games for five teams and recorded almost 350 points. Vladimir Konstantinov could man the other defense position. "Vlad the Impaler" played in 446 NHL games and had just helped the Detroit Red Wings win their second Stanley Cup in a row when his career was ended after an automobile accident. At left wing there might be Anatoli Semenov, who appeared in more than 350 NHL games for six clubs.

At center, though, was one of the greatest players in NHL history and arguably the greatest NHL player of Russian descent (with apologies to Alex Ovechkin). Sergei Fedorov was selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the fourth round with the 74th overall pick. After spending another year with CSKA Moscow, the team from which he was drafted by the Wings, Fedorov embarked on an 18-year career characterized by his excellence in all three zones of the ice and an ability to make the most difficult of tasks seem effortless.

Fedorov embarked on an 18-year career characterized by ... an ability to make the most difficult of tasks seem effortless.

Fedorov's best years were spent with the club that drafted him. In 13 years with the Red Wings, he appeared in 908 regular season games, then fourth in team history (he currently ranks in a tie for eighth), recording 400 goals (currently fourth in team history), and 954 points (fifth in Red Wing history).

In 13 postseason appearances with the Wings, Fedorov played in 162 games, recording 163 points. He and Gordie Howe are the only two players in Red Wing history to average more than a point per game in the postseason (minimum: 50 games played). Three times in the span of six seasons he won a Stanley Cup.

His off-ice adventures were of interest to fans, and his skill on the ice made for one of the more interesting contract episodes in NHL history to that point. Fedorov left Detroit as a free agent after the 2002-2003 to sign a deal with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Despite a five-year, $40 million deal with the Ducks, it was not a match made in heaven. It was, instead, the start of meandering through the hockey landscape - 85 games in Anaheim before being traded to Columbus in 2005. He spent parts of three seasons with the Blue Jackets until the trading deadline in February 2008.

It was at that point that the Washington Capitals came knocking on Columbus' door. The Caps traded defenseman prospect Theo Ruth for Fedorov to help them with what was still an improbable run to the 2008 postseason. On the day he was traded to Washington, the Caps were in second place in the Southeast Division, five points behind the Carolina Hurricanes with 18 games left. They were in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, five points out of the top-eight and a wild card playoff berth.

His start with the Capitals was unremarkable - two assists in his first seven games. However, over his last 11 regular season games he was 2-9-11, the Caps went 10-1-0, and Washington edged out the Hurricanes for the Southeast Division title, ending a three-season absence from the postseason, their longest such absence since their first eight years in the league ending in 1982.

In the postseason against the Flyers, Fedorov and the Capitals had almost, but not quite enough, to overcome the Philadelphia Flyers, who defeated the Capitals in overtime of Game 7 of the first round playoff series. It was, nevertheless, a far better ending to the season than anyone had a right to expect when the Capitals were mired in last place in the Eastern Conference as late as December 28th and five points out of a playoff berth when Fedorov arrived.

It made his re-signing with the Capitals on a one-year, $4 million contract a welcome development in advance of the 2008-2009 season. It would, however, be a difficult one for the veteran. Appearing in only 52 games, the fewest for a full season since he appeared in just 21 regular season games in 1997-2008 with Detroit, he still managed 11 goals and 33 points in largely a second line center role. It would be merely prelude to what followed.

In the 2009 post season, as Fedorov went, so went the Capitals in the first round against the New York Rangers. In the seven-game series, the Caps lost all three games in which he did not register a point, and won all three in which he did record a point leading to Game 7 in Washington. What he had not done in those first six games was record a goal. That would be remedied 15:01 into the final period with the game tied at a goal apiece:

For Fedorov, it might have been his high-water mark as a Capital. It was his 52nd career playoff goal (ultimately his last) and clinched the seven-game series against the Rangers. Against Pittsburgh in the second round he managed four assists in another seven-game series, but the wear was showing, both on him and the Caps. Fedorov was minus-five in the last four games of that series, three of which the Caps lost in losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champions.

It would be the last NHL action for Fedorov, who returned to Russia the following season to skate with Mettalurg Magnitogorsk in the KHL. He finished his NHL career with 1,248 games, 483 goals, 1,179 points, 15 appearances in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and three Cups.

His time spent with the Capitals was brief - 70 regular season games and another 21 in the postseason. However, his presence helped spark the Caps to six consecutive post season appearances, and while he scored only two postseason goals for the club, one of them ensures his place among the greats in team history. As it is, among the 75 Capitals in team history appearing in at least 20 postseason games, he is seventh in assists per game and 17th in points per game.

Sergei Fedorov will enter the Hockey Hall of Fame as a Detroit Red Wing, but he will always be thought of as a Capital as well... and Caps fans are privileged for the time he spent with the team.