Islanders sign D Zhitnik to four-year deal

UNIONDALE, New York (Ticker) - The New York Islanders wasted little time replacing Adrian Aucoin.

Hours after losing Aucoin via free agency to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Islanders on Tuesday signed defenseman Alexei Zhitnik to a four-year contract.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Aucoin, who signed a four-year deal with Chicago, led Islanders defensemen in scoring with 44 points in 2003-04 en route to his first All-Star Game appearance. He also ranked seventh in the NHL with an average of nearly 27 minutes per game.

An established veteran, Zhitnik will be counted on to replace Aucoin’s offensive production. The 32-year-old Russian collected four goals and 24 assists with the Buffalo Sabres in 2003-04 but scored a career-high 52 points with Los Angeles in 1993-94 and has two 48-point campaigns under his belt.

“The Islanders were at the top of my list of teams I wanted to play for,” Zhitnik said. “I spoke with (general manager) Mike Milbury and (coach Steve Stirling), and they told me what’s expected of me. I’m very happy to be an Islander.”

“Alexei is a perfect fit for us,” Milbury said. “He’s one of the best two-way defensemen in the game and he’s a highly respected player. He’s going to play big minutes for us in all situations.”

A fourth-round pick of the Kings in 1991, Zhitnik has appeared in 882 career games with Los Angeles and Buffalo, registering 81 goals and 315 assists. A two-time All-Star, he also has international experience, winning the gold medal with the Unified Team in the 1992 Olympics and the silver with Russia in the 1998 Winter Games.

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Updated Tuesday, Aug 2, 2005