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Canadian Press
Nov 21, 2006, 8:07 PM EST


(CP) - Don't bother asking Alexei Yashin how great he feels about his good offensive start.

He's near the beginning of a long season and in the middle of a much longer career, so all the captain of the New York Islanders is currently interested in is balance. It's the best way to get through the inevitable highs and lows that come with being a professional athlete.

"During an 82-game season it's very hard to play on the same level all season long," Yashin said Tuesday on a conference call from New York. "With experience, you try to manage (yourself) mentally."

Experience is something the 33-year-old Yashin is not lacking.

After all, he had 79 points as a rookie with the Ottawa Senators way back in 1993-94 and was once the peach-fuzzed face of that young franchise.

"Since I came to the league, I've had a lot of attention," he said.

The attention largely turned negative in Ottawa as he and Senators management battled over contracts and intensified further when Yashin eventually sat out an entire year in a bid to get more money from the team.

Still, life didn't get much easier after Yashin was traded to the Islanders at the 2001 draft and signed to an US$87.5-million, 10-year contract.

His best offensive season on Long Island is the 32 goals and 75 points he had in 2001-02 - well below the career-best 44 goals and 94 points he had in Ottawa four years earlier.

It's made him a target, although Yashin insists that hasn't served as motivation during a strong start to this season.

"I try to play as hard as I can every night," he said. "Some people see something, some people don't."

There has been much to see with Yashin and the upstart Islanders this year. He has eight goals and 23 points in 19 games while his team has a record of 10-7-2.

Yashin is in his second season as captain and admits that it feels much better than last year when the Isles missed the playoffs.

"When the team does very well and is successful, it's so much easier to wear the C or A or be the leader of the team," he said.

While it's impossible to pinpoint the exact reason for Yashin's strong start, he did discuss two off-season changes by the organization.

First, he's thrilled to be playing alongside free-agent signing Viktor Kozlov. The two were teammates as teenagers with Dynamo Moscow in the early 90's.

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