Shaking things up

DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Skill should never supplant grit and determination.

Calgary Hitmen coaches have been trying to convey this message to their powerplay unit the last couple of games.

Although it's still early in the season, the Hitmen have struggled with the extra man, going a measly 4-for-35 since the start of the campaign.

However, with two goals on the powerplay in their last outing against Swift Current, the message appears to have gotten through.

"When you have a lot of skill, which we do on this hockey club, people think you can just go out and rely on that alone," said co-coach Dean Evason.

"A lot of the times guys just want to stay on the perimeter and score goals from just using their skill but we think it has to be the opposite. Work ethic first, grittiness, compete and then score the goal with skill."

Captain Ryan Getzlaf, who often mans the point on some of the peeper units agreed with his coach's assessment.

"It's tough at the start of the year," explained Getzlaf. "You've got to kind of gel together because there's lots of new guys coming in.

"We're working on getting traffic to the net and we're trying some new things but mainly its just finding the right chemistry."

But Hitmen coaches aren't too concerned with that science ... yet.

"Penalty killers are always the most competitive guys on any hockey team so in order to score goals you have to be willing to out-compete them," said Evason.

"Just because you have one more guy doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have open opportunities. You have to get in there and compete just as hard as the penalty killers to score goals."

In order to shake things up a bit and get the two new powerplay forwards -- Roman Tomanek and Konstantin Pushkarev -- comfortable with their teammates, GM-coach Kelly Kisio and Evason decided to juggle the lines.

Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd were separated, shocking the captain.

"It wasn't something that we saw coming especially with the season we had last year," said Getzlaf, who now centres the two Euros.

"I've got two skilled guys on my line right now and we've just got to get our chemistry together.

"It's tough because I played with Andrew all last season. We know each other so well ... and we liked to be together but the (coaches) are doing what's best for the team."

Evason's said he felt it was a way to kick-start the team.

"When you change things up and when you give it a different look, it just gives the coaches the opportunity to shake things up without yelling and screaming."

The Hitmen host the Regina Pats tonight (7 p.m.) at the Saddledome.


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